November 6

Silvan Safari Blog: The Ritual

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November 6, 2020

In early September we started to see the arrival of a new male leopard to the Silvan area. We knew very little of him before this, but have since pieced together that he has moved from the far eastern section of Sabi Sand Game Reserve in search of a new territory. He has been named “The Tortoise Pan Male”, unfortunately without a great story behind it, but we will see what we can dig up in the meantime. The Tortoise Pan Male is not as comfortable with the vehicles as our other leopards but he is slowly warming up to us, allowing us to spend more time with him. 

The Tortoise Pan Male at Silvan Safari
The impressive Tortoise Pan Male, Photo Credit: Steph Hornsey

The dominant male within the Silvan lodge area is Hukumuri. So we are all wondering when these two will meet up as it is sure to be a fiery and explosive encounter. Both these cats are impressive specimens and with the winner claiming the spoils of this vast territory, the battle will be brutal. 

Now, we had heard from a little birdie that our resident leopardess, Tiyani, had been spotted with the Tortoise Pan Male and that they were both were moving towards the lodge. Always eager to spend some time with Tiyani and since the only reason she should be spending time with the Tortoise Pan Male would be for mating, we were very interested in witnessing this rare encounter. What would a Silvan game drive be without some leopard magic?  

After traversing a few of Tiyani’s favourite spots close to camp, our tracker, Victor, found the spoors of both leopards and indicated they were very close to where we currently were. In the bush it is always best to use all your senses, so we switched off the vehicle to listen to the sounds of the bush. And more specifically, the tell-tale sounds of courting leopards.

After a minute of silence, we all heard them. The guttural grinding growl so typical of mating leopards. Now it was time to follow the sounds and find them. Leopards are solitary animals so to get to watch leopards mating is something very few people get to witness and such a treat for our guests.  

Tiyani with the Tortoise Pan Male after mating at Silvan
Our beautiful Tiyani with the Tortoise Pan Male in the background, Photo Credit: Steph Hornsey

While mating, leopards will stay together for approximately 5 days and mate at +- 15 minute intervals throughout these days. During this time, the leopards very seldom eat or drink: making this the most important thing on this predators to-do list. After completing the “mating rituals”, they would have mated around 250 times, securing pregnancy and hopefully bearing cubs between 90-105 days later. 

As an aside story to the leopards mating, and quite entertaining for our guests as well. While we were watching the leopards, a yellow footed tree squirrel piqued the interest of Tiyani. With clandestine speed and agility she launched through the bush and made a wild lunge towards the vehicle. All the guests collectively lunged backwards in unison as this beautiful creature came exceptionally close to our game drive vehicle. All sitting in silence afterwards, we quietly chuckled as the vehicle continued to rock from side to side from our combined sudden movement.

In typical Tiyani fashion, she took absolutely no notice of any of this and casually sauntered off back for another session with her beau, the upcoming dominant male at Silvan. With any luck, in 3 to 4 months we might have a new addition to our Silvan leopard family. 


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Steph Hornsey

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