It’s Monday 23rd October and leopards come to Majete
A lot has been going on in Majete this past week; let's hear from Mark about the exciting developments!
Two young adult leopards, originally from the Kruger National Park in South Africa, have been awaiting release in their holding pens in Majete. Last week Cees Slager, Ton and I attended the release of the male, along with the members of Africom who funded the leopard transfer and introduction to Majete.
Africom are a group of influential Dutch CEO’s who share a passion for conservation activities in Africa. Through donor funding they support predator related projects, one of which is Majete’s leopard introductions.
We hosted the Africom members at Mkulumadzi and Fred drove them out on the morning of the release in a closed vehicle. Open game-viewers are not recommended for leopard releases as a small percentage of animals can wake up angry and aggressive from the drugs used to immobilize them. No need to present an angry leopard with an open vehicle full of people as the possible cause of his headache!
During a briefing from the vet in charge of the proceedings, Dr Andre Uys, the male leopard was already voicing his displeasure at the intrusion with a throaty and very menacing growl. When Andre poked the barrel of his dart gun through the wire mesh the leopard gave an impressive display of aggression and tested the stoutness of the cage and the nerve of the onlookers by springing at the wire in an attempt to defend himself. The dart flew through and within minutes we were handling, stroking and inspecting the beautiful cat. Interestingly the young female leopard in the next door enclosure showed no aggression and kept out of sight throughout.
A GPS collar had been fitted, which enables the animal to be tracked and monitors the males movements through the park, this was checked, amongst other standard inspections, and, once Andre was satisfied, the animal was placed in a chosen spot and injected with the antidote.
Watching the leopard groggily rise and take his first hesitant steps in his new wilderness was a thrilling and emotional experience and marked the near culmination of the successful rejuvenation of Majete as a big-5 wildlife area by the dedicated African Parks team. Since 2003 African Parks have been re-introducing species to Majete that were eradicated during the years of heavy poaching and lack of protection that the park experienced. The introduction of the predators; leopard this year and lion in 2012, marks the final vital piece in the species puzzle.
In the days since his release, data captured from the male leopards’ collar shows he has moved South and East from his release site towards the Shire River. This wildlife rich area is regularly traversed on gamedrives and we hope to spot him shortly – the challenge is out there for the first photograph of a leopard from a gamedrive or walk in Majete!
The female will be released within the week and the plans are already underway for the next four leopards to make their way from South Africa to Malawi and into Majete. A total of eight are to be introduced by the end of the year. This should be sufficient to initiate a breeding population and re-establish these cats in an area where they were previously so prolific.
Days in Mkulumadzi carry on in the pleasant and relaxed pace that is life in the Malawi bush. The end of a long and particularly harsh dry season is taking its toll on all wildlife however, and we’ve had to watch the death of the old and the weak as their search for green grass or browse yields nothing. One of our resident old buffalo bulls slipped on the rocks whilst trying to get at the green reeds on the riverbank a few days ago, exhausted and weak he never got up again. Unfortunately his chosen spot to die is directly upwind of the lodge dining deck! It took 10 staff with poles to roll the heavy buffalo into the river; he floated away quite regally, several crocs already in tow.
As one does at the end of any season, we eagerly await the next - some heavy tropical rain and, with it, green grass and foliage will be most welcome.”
Thanks for sharing this with us, Mark!
Here in the Luangwa we are rather flat out with the film crew that I spoke about last week – if you would like to see what we are up to, take a look at the live feed straight from the Luangwa Valley on channel4.com Hippo: The Wild Feast.
That’s all for this Monday.
Have a great week