Hanyile is our youngest male leopard at Lion Sands. Whenever we see Hanyile, he is usually up to something, or on the move. He likes to climb up and down trees for fun, like a child at the playground. He loves exploring, and is endlessly entertaining to watch, which is why he is my favourite leopard.
The first time I saw Hanyile was about a year ago. At the time, he was still with his mother, Scotia. They were always very playful together. Even from a young age, Hanyile was curious – especially about the safari vehicles. Though we would park far away from him, he would move towards us, and even come to lie down between the vehicles and look at what was happening.
…But always under the watchful eye of his mother. This relaxed behavior is, no doubt, something he learned from her. Scotia – the star leopardess of Lion Sands Sabi Sand – is extremely comfortable around vehicles. Usually when a leopard mother is habituated to the vehicles’ presence, the cubs will learn to trust them, too. This is definitely the case with Hanyile.
He started leaving his mother for short periods of time at about one year old. First for a week at a time, slowly it progressed to weeks and even a month, and then only occasionally were they seen together. One afternoon, we were following Scotia’s tracks, when they turned and were accompanied by a second set. We ended up finding Hanyile and Scotia together – she had brought him to her kill. Though he was almost independent, she was still looking out for her son.
Hanyile has a varied diet. He once killed an African civet and fed on it in a tree, and has been seen eating reptiles, like an African rock monitor. He also has a habit of stalking inappropriate-size prey – including buffalo, waterbuck, and a giraffe!
Hanyile has a fascination with leopard tortoises, too. On many occasions, he has been spotted trying to get inside one’s shell. But he can never get through their tough exterior and ends up leaving it. Once, we saw him with two leopard tortoises – kicking and playing with one until he got tired of it, before moving down the road to play with a second.
Another field guide, Luke Abbot witnessed him investigating a foam-nest frog’s nest – a bright white, foamy clump that is built on branches over water. Hanyile wanted to get closer, so he climbed onto a very small branch, reached out his paw and tried to touch it. He couldn’t reach and fell out of the tree. Embarrassed or disillusioned, he took a final glance back at the nest, and gave it up to do something else.
This leopard is near and dear to many hearts here at Lion Sands, and we will be very sad if he leaves. But he is a young male in another’s territory – belonging to his father, Xovonekela. Though, his father seems to be tolerant of him for the moment. We will wait and see if he is allowed to settle down into Lion Sands permanently…
Words and inline photos by: Ruvan Grobler
Slider photos by: Charlotte Arthun