Phalanta male was the sixth male leopard to be fitted with a collar for the Leopard research project of Erindi Private Game Reserve. The leopard was named due to his rosette markings that all take the form of a butterfly shape.
The word Phalanta is the genus name of a butterfly commonly called the “African Leopard” butterfly.
He was noted to be about 4 years old and not yet territorial on the reserve. He was also seen to be an especially beautiful male leopard and he was targeted due to his up and coming age and relaxed nature with vehicles. He was originally spotted by the research team and he was “habituated” to the cage traps before an attempt to catch him was made. The process worked fantastically well and with no bait or lures in the trap, he entered and was captured. He was fitted with a GPS collar made by TELEVIT that automatically took 3 GPS positions daily and stored valuable data on movement, temperatures etc. The collar battery life was set to be almost 3 years and the team was very excited that they would start receiving valuable information from this young male.
Very unfortunately, after only a month, the collar began to beacon a “flat battery” signal and as the leopard was not inside the reserve at the time, it was not possible to re-capture him before the collar stopped working. Excellent data was gathered during the first month that the collar was on and the team set up traps and cameras to try & locate him after the collar stopped working.
He was found & photographed in mid 2011 in the centre of Erindi Game Reserve moving in and out of a trap set for honey badgers!
Strangely, he had lost his collar altogether but he was noted to be in perfect condition and it remains a mystery as to how the collar came off!
At the end of February 2012 he was found while guests were out on a night drive and he allowed photographs to be taken again. The leopard was badly injured on his face but from the single photo, the extent of his injuries was unknown. He found the research team this time and was photographed enough to enable the determination of the extent of his wound. The leopards right lip has been torn wide open and his canine is clearly visible when his mouth is closed. There is extensive swelling to the lip and he has worn down an upper & lower canine. He also has a long scar that has already healed on the top of his head.
At first glance, it appeared that his injuries were naturally from fighting with another leopard but this would not cause his canines to be worn down to nothing – it is more likely that he has been caught in a poorly made farm cage trap or been caught in a fence that he managed to chew out of.
The team aims to try and capture him in May, if his injuries were inflicted by a cage, he may not enter the trap again and another method to capture him must be put into action.
Story & Photographs by Natasha Britz