Motswari Blog Volume 30 – Tchukanyana, Ntombi’s son, Ntima’s brother

Tchukanyana is one of the dominant male leopards in the northern Timbavati. His name means pink in the local language, due to the colour of his nose.Son of Ntombi, he has a brother named Ntima, meaning black, again depicting the colour of his nose (see Blog 28 for the difference).This was the major distinguishable factor between them as youngsters and fortunately has remained into their adulthood.

He was born around Feb 2013, which makes him around six and a half now. Tchukanyana is well known for his attitude because he’s temperamental, snarls and shows aggression at vehicles that penetrate his comfort zone and he is well renowned for losing kills to hyenas. He’s somewhat clumsier than his bigger brother, yet he continues to dominate in his own territory, albeit smaller in comparison to Ntima’s.

On a recent drive, he was found up a tree with an impala kill.We believe he stole this kill from a female leopard rather than making the kill himself.There are always antics from this boy when he has a kill in a tree accompanied by an expectant and patient clan of hyena underneath. This occasion was no different. He extracted the stomach from the carcass, not something leopards enjoy eating, then dangled the goods above the hyena by a single claw hold–extraordinary behavior. Eventually, it dropped, much to the excitement of the mouths below. What made this moment funnier for all who were lucky enough to witness it, was that Tchukanyana very nearly dropped the entire carcass by trying to move it to a more secure spot just after teasing the hyenas with the stomach…..karma perhaps? Fortunately, he managed to keep the kill and carry on feeding but it wouldn’t have been the first time he’s dropped a kill and lost his meal to scavengers below.

Whilst feeding, Tchukanyana would look up and snarl at the hyena activity underneath. He shows such irritation at their presence, yet he’s safe and untouchable on his marula branch. He would also show displeasure at any vehicles which infiltrated his space so we were all kept at a good distance to ensure he was comfortable and not impacted by our presence. He does give us some wonderful photographic moments though; that grimace is quite spectacular with the carcass beneath him, blue azure sky behind him and the texture of the marula tree –such a treat for any onlooker, photographer or not.

The hyenas below him were also fascinating to watch. It appears that the alpha female of the clan is the one directly under the tree, she gets first dibs on the scraps from above. There are a number of youngsters hovering around but as there’s only limited amounts the alpha is dominating the area and won’t tolerate any competition. If they were on a carcass, the alpha’s cubs would be next in line to feed, superseding all other members of the clan just because they are the alpha’s offspring.

On this occasion, Tchukanyana managed to keep the kill (even though it wasn’t his in the first place) and have a solid meal. He may not have the presence and finesse of Ntima but this boy has immense character and is a joy to watch, when he chooses to allow you to be in his midst. These brothers could not be more different and we are grateful to them both for being a part of our wildlife experience here in the northern Timbavati.


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