Friday, 3 December 2010

Mangadjane Male Leopard (Batman)

Name: He started out as Rupert, then progressed onto becoming the beloved Batman, but was eventually referred to as Mangadjane male (Mangadjane means ‘Bat’ in Shangaan).

Born: Probably around 1996 – died; 11 May 2009

Territory: Mangadjane had one of the largest territories for any male leopard in the Timbavati, and it covered some 10,000ha (approximately 10.5km by 10km) that he would patrol regularly. Although the core of his territory centred on the Nhlaralumi between Makulu Dam and Mbali Dam, he roamed over most of the area traversed by Motswari. His northern boundary extended slightly north beyond the Timbavati-Umbabat cutline into Argyle, while his southern boundary was almost 11km near Machaton Dam on Tanda Tula. In the west, Mangadjane would patrol areas further west of Argyle Rd, but seldom spent more than a day or two in that area, so clearly that part of his territory that fell within the Klaserie was relatively small. In the east, this impressive male extended his territory across Karan’s and into Scholtz, as well as an uncertain amount of land in the adjoining non-commercial properties of Mananga and Ceylon. The core of his activities found him regularly roaming Mbali, Java, Jaydee, Vielmetter and southern Peru, with regular, but less frequent trips into northern Peru and south into Kings and Tanda Tula. The latter became more prominent after a serious altercation with an adversary that we believe to have been Argyle male. After the fight in late 2008, Mangadjane seldom came much further north than Woza-woza Cutline.

(click on map for larger view)

Females: Mangadjane males territory covered the smaller territories of Rockfig female, Nthombi female, Java Dam female, and Mbali female. In times of old, Nhlaralumi female would also have fallen into his territory and under his control.

Mangadjane and Mbali mating

Mangadjane and Rockfig female mating (August 2007)

Mangadjane male and Rockfig female mating (November 2007) - this affair resulted in the birth of Nkateko in February 2008
Cubs: 2008 – 2 cubs to Rockfig female (Nkateko and another cub that died)

2006 – 2 cubs to Nhlaralumi female (Nthombi and another male cub that survived)

2006 – 2 cubs to Java Dam female (outcomes unknown)

2004 – 2 cubs to Rockfig female (Rockfig Jnr female and Rockfig young male; both survived)

In addition, to these known successful litters, there was another litter of cubs born to Rockfig in ???? that didn’t survive, as well as at least three failed litters born to Mbali.

Mother: Unknown. Some rumours believed Java female was his mother.

Father: Unknown

Siblings: Unknown. Rumours again claimed that Mbali is Mangadjane’s sister.

Neighbours: The most prominent neighbour of Mangadjane was Argyle male in the north. The eastern neighbour exists, but little is known of the eastern leopards, and a chance of contact between these two leopards was slim. In the west, there was a large male that no doubt encountered Mangadjane from time to time. In the south, reports of a large male exist, but also little is known of this ‘neighbour’. The young Machaton male did encounter the larger Mangadjane on several occasions, but he was too young at that stage to pose a threat.

Drinking water near Machaton Cottage, but still nursing injuries after a serious fight with another predator - most likely Argyle Male
Story: Batman was a legend. Without a shadow of a doubt, he was the most relaxed male leopard to ever roam the Timbavati (and possibly the most relaxed leopard, irrespective of sex), so the fact that he met his tragic end by being shot in self-defence is a clear sign that no matter how little attention is paid to the vehicles, all of the animals are still wild, and their relaxed dispositions are not to be taken for granted.

Now for any of our past guests that have been privileged enough to see Mangadjane, you will know how easy it was for guides and guests to become so attached to him. His relaxed demeanour around the vehicles ensured up-close and personal encounters of one impressively sized male leopard. He went about his business as if we were not even there, I never once had him show any aggression towards the vehicle, even when he was munching on an impala a few meters above our heads! In fact, I think the impala’s were the only ones happy to hear of his demise, as Mangadjane definitely did his part in keeping the impala population in check (a favourite was when he managed to kill three impalas in one go)! Of course all the guides across the Timbavati were deeply saddened to hear how he passed, and I am sure that, like myself, all the ‘rugged and tough rangers’ quietly shed a tear or two when no-one was looking. It was a strange thing; he was an animal, a wild animal, but upon hearing of his death at that time, it was like hearing of the passing of a friend. And after more than seven years of ruling the northern Timbavati, that is what Rupert aka Batman aka Mangadjane (in all his various spellings!) had become to the guides – a friend, and one was sorely missed…

While the sadness may have reigned down over Timbavati for a while, Mangadjane let us with so many memories that meant that we could not help but smile when we thought of all the magical sightings we had of him over the last few years. They were magical tales of a great leopard; and great not just by Timbavati standards, but Mangadjane would no doubt have been a star in any reserve in any country – he was just that sort of leopard. He was the ultimate leopard, from killing fully grown female kudu’s weighing more than twice as much as he did to stories of him killing fully grown hyenas and then hoisting them into trees to feed on them – then more tenderly making a meal of a group of catfish in a drying pool, and too taking them into the trees! He always had a go at the hyenas that pestered him when he was on his kills, as had many meetings with the Sohebele lion pride that shared his land. These ultimate enemies knew each other well and shared many encounters (some almost ending Mangadjane’s life even earlier) – my most memorable being when the pride of eight lions kept Mangadjane biding his time on the whimsical branches of a marula tree on an extremely warm autumns day…all day long! He had no shade, and little room to move, but he did have something the lions wanted – an impala kill. The lions were patient, but Mangadjane was even more so…daylight came and went, and Mangadjane was still sitting tight, not even attempting an escape – not even when an intruding male leopard came and joined him in the tree, despite all eight lions still sitting underneath them. In the morning all characters were gone, and Mangadjane – possibly stiff-legged – wasn’t seen in a tree for sometime after that!

Another favourite attribute about Mangadjane was his patience – and it always amazed us to see him sitting and waiting at the entrance of a warthog burrow, sometimes for almost 48 hours at a time , just knowing that eventually the warthog would have to come out, and if it did, he was ready…well, most times anyway!!!

One could go on and on about our dearly departed friend, but we had to move on, and we did. He was a legend, he was one-of-a-kind, and he contributed towards making the Timbavati the special place it is. And although he is gone, he has left more than a legacy – he populated the reserve with several offspring and together with our other fantastic leopards, they continued to provide the guests and guides with countless wonderful memories and photographic opportunities. If anything, within a couple of months of his death, the leopard viewing at Motswari was better than it ever was, even when Mangadjane was around. Often, if he was found with a kill, the guides wouldn’t persist too much in tracking or looking for other leopards, as he was a ‘banker’. But without his sightings, the guides went and found many of the other leopards in the reserve, and the diversity of leopards seen certainly increased. It didn’t take long for Argyle male to move further south and show himself more regularly and relax in the presence of the vehicles to become a fairly good replacement for Mangadjane.

Besides that though no other male leopards really stepped up to the plate to take over the large vacant area, and neighbouring males seemed to just enlarge their territories a bit while a couple of young males still appear to be attempting to set up a strong hold in the central regions, such as the Machaton male – at this stage though it is a bit soon to tell exactly what will happen in the coming years, but Mangadjane’s departure certainly led to some interesting developments in the world of the leopards of the Timbavati, and although he will never be forgotten, we are extremely lucky that we didn’t feel his loss as much as we had initially suspected we would.

The last photo I took of this Legend...RIP


  1. He was a true legend!

  2. Wow since we came in june 08 ( when Mangadjane was up the tree with the lions waiting for him below) I think most of the big cats we saw have either deceased or moved off, very sad but just goes to show how quickly everything changes. He was beautiful R.I.P Mangadjane.

  3. hahahaha, that is so true!

    man, 2009/early 2010 was a bad year; we lost the sohebele male, the four sohebele lionesses, a litter of sohebele cubs born in may 2009, mangadjane male, rockfig female, nkateko female left the area and 2 machaton lionesses were killed!!!

    BUT, being nature, Nature made a plan and in 2010 we 'received'; the white pride, the mahlathini males, rockfig jnr and her cubs, argyle male moved more into our area, the ross pride started showing themselves more often, nthombi had a cub, lots of wild dog sightings, and regular cheetah sightings! its amazing how things change, and it was wonderful watching this change in action - sad, but great to see how nature works in cycles....

    we were particularly sad with the demise of mangadjane and the sohebeles (especially after a sighting like 28th June!!!), but argyle male is a more than adequate replacement in the the south, the machaton male (who was incidently also a big part of that sighting in the marula tree) is still around in the ol territory of mangadjane, but he hasnt relaxed much over the years...

    the lion vois has not been fixed totally; but we do get good diversity in our lions now - with the sohebeles present, they kept other lion prides out, but now we get them moving in from all over; jacaranda pride and jacaranda four from the north, xakubasa pride from the west, machatons and ross pride from the interesting time it must be said :)

    thanks for that comment, and hope that that amazing sighting brings back great memories of your stay at motswari!



  4. Wow all that in two years!!!

    Oh yes that memory will stick with us forever.

    Hopefully we shall be back one day to make more memories.

    Take care


  5. He was shot in self defence?? By whom??