By Will Knocker:
On sunday afternoon I was at the Masai Gate (which borders on the Silole Sanctuary) when the KWS ranger on duty – Jackson ole Kuyioni- looked over my shoulder down towards the brodge over the Empakasi River…”Do you want to see a chui?” he asked in Kiswahili
“Look up in the big acacia!” Can you see the leopard here?
The binoculars revealed the cat just 75 m away, listening to us chatting: suburban leopard!
Hopefully the leopard population in NNP is going up since two of the big cats were poisoned by a new neighbour near the Sanctuary a year or two ago….
IMAGES by KATE MAUGHLING:
Yesterday Yumi the leopard researcher came to look at leopard pugs behind Silole Cottage & gave me an update on the research she is doing on NNP leopards. She collared 2 leopards in order to monitor their movements.One is ‘ours’: she lives in the park & in the Silole Sanctuary abutting the park, whilst the other animal is resident in the Langata Forest in the west of the park.
Yumi was telling me about analysis of the scat (droppings) in these 2 areas of the park & the results are interesting: these leopards really are suburban, making use of the food resources inside & outside of the park. The first (Silole) leopard, which inhabits the area around the river-gorges of the Kiserian & Empakasi rivers had baboon & hyrax remains in it’s scat, along with the hairs of sheep & goats presumably stolen from Masai homesteads outside the park, whilst the second leopard, whose movements show it crosses the Magadi road into the neighbouring Mukoma Estate had bushbuck remains & domestic dog hairs in it’s scat. So now you know where your missing pet went to…….
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting up with Yumi, a zoologist from Kyoto University researching leopards in NNP, specifically looking at the conservation of these elusive cats & at interaction between leopards & people in the extraordinary periurban situation that is Nairobi National Park.
Yumi trapped & collared 2 female leopards in the park in January this year & has been trying to keep up with them through radio signals & GPS readings showing their movements since then.
One of these is probably the individual that wakes me up at night by walking on my currugated iron roof as it was trapped along the Empakasi River next to the Masai Gate below the Silole Sanctuary where I live……Yumi estimates her age as less than 3 years old, which makes her immature..
The other moves in & out of the park from the Mukoma Road Estate into the Langata Forest. This individual is also young, but appears from the examination of her teats to have had cubs…
She has positively identified at least 5 different males & estimates the entire NNP population at between 10-20. The huge margin for error is perfectly easy to understand by those of us who are lucky enough to spot a leopard in the park….
KWS report a female with 3 cubs in the Langata Forest. Females appear to share territory, whilst males are much less tolerant of intruders……
If anybody has information or sightings of leopards in NNP please let me know & I will pass on to Yumi…
A usual sighting of a leopard -a sleeping beauty almost impossible to see amongst the foliage. Leopards are mainly noctournal & are opportunistic predators eating whatever is locally available . Not surprisingly around NNP they are very fond of eating dogs & cats including my dachshund last year…….
Photos by top cat-spotter Dave McKelvie.
Leopards are famously elusive & those that live in & around NNP are no exception.
Having said that we may say that chui do well in the diverse habitats of the park, with it’s rocky river gorges, forests & savannah. Here there is a wide selection of possible food, ranging from plump rock hyraxes to rodents & fully grown antelope of various species.
Leopards regularly prowl on the mabati roof of my house & recently 3 adults were seen from the verandah of Silole Villa (presumably 2 grown up cubs & their mother.)
Here are some great photographs of some of our leopards by Dave McKelvie, a great afficianado of the park & perhaps especially of it’s big cats……