Power struggles, family feuds and brutal rivalries – this is what hooked us into binge watching the Game of Thrones series and right now we are eagerly witnessing this being played out between the leopards at Silvan Safari.
The one thing about power is that you can’t hold onto it indefinitely. It gently ebbs and flows like the change in season or the rise and fall of the tide. For those who don’t know, the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve (which shares an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park) is possibly the best place in the world to view leopards. These elusive creatures thrive within this highly protected and environmentally divers area and, over time, have also become familiar with game drive vehicles. This allows for the most intimate and memorable sightings of a creature which is typically very shy, secretive and loves to remain hidden.
With a large concentration of leopards in the area surrounding Silvan, the stage is dramatically set for a battle of epic proportions. As a side note: a male and female leopard won’t compete for the same territory, however they will not tolerate encroachment from the same sex into their own spaces. This means there is often an overlap of leopards within the same spaces.
We all know Tiyani is Silvan’s leopardess and she and her now almost fully grown cub Ndzutini are often spotted in & around the lodge. Our Game of Thrones battle however is being played out between their male counterparts.
Hukumuri has for a while been the dominant male leopard at Silvan. He is very easily identifiable as he is blind in one eye, but don’t let that fool you – he is a formidable leopard. That said, over the past while we have noticed a steadily increasing level of pressure from Hosana (a younger & very strong leopard) who currently occupies the territory to the south-west of the lodge.
If that wasn’t enough, in the months since re-opening, we have had two additional male leopards who are beginning to cause a shift in the sands at Silvan. The “Tortoise Pan” male, originally from the east of Silvan and the “Flat Rock” male from northern Londolozi has been making regular appearances in and around the Silvan lodge. This increased movement into both Hukumuri and Hosansa’s territory shows that a power shift is currently at play. Like Daenerys Targaryen arriving at Qarth with her dragons and her realising her formidable strength, this subtle change is happening right now at Silvan.
Both of these new males have shown their lack of respect for the bigger male in the area, Hukumuri, and have been seen actively scent marking, patrolling and mating with the leopardesses too. This has led to a number of close calls and scuffles between these leopards & the tension is definitely rising.
How long Hukumuri will still be able to hold the “Throne of Silvan”, nobody knows, but until such time that either the Flat Rock or Tortoise Pan males make a bold move to dethrone him, he remains the biggest and most dominant male leopard in the northern Sabi Sand.
This Game of Thrones is far from over. Personally, I hope we get to see Hukumuri for some time to come as he is such an incredible creature but, as is always the case in the bush, his time is slowly running out. The change of power will come, the shift will happen & all we can do is patiently wait to see what the next episode has in store for us.