It is with great sadness that we advise of the passing away of one of the most famous characters of MalaMala Game Reserve; the Rock Drift Male Leopard or Tjololo.
Probably the most famous leopard that has graced TV documentaries world wide, he was the 'face' of numerous leopard documentaries produced by Kim Wolhuter and National Geographic in the MalaMala Game Reserve.
But whether he was the Rock Drift Male to the rangers of MalaMala or Tjololo to the millions of viewers who saw him on TV and then visited him on MalaMala, we are all sad to see the old man of MalaMala go.
It all started on the morning of the 13 th of November 2007 when a male leopard was seen on Campbell Road on the western boundary of MalaMala. Old and in poor condition, he was reported as having numerous porcupine quills embedded in him, some of which were deep in the neck and throat of the poor cat.
Tom Bloy, the Manager of MalaMala, traveled to inspect the animal and confirmed the animal's condition was not good. Michael Rattray, the owner of MalaMala who is not disposed to intervening in nature, irrespective of the circumstances, was moved by the state of Tjololo and requested the Kruger National Parks Veterinary Services to assist.
Some 5 hours after the leopard was originally seen, the vets arrived. During this time, the Rock Drift Male had hardly moved and was clearly suffering the consequences of his attack on the porcupine.
Tjololo did not react well to the tranquliser dart, and had sporadic convulsions. The vet advised that it was not unusual and that he would settle down as the drug took effect. Under usual circumstances the drug would settle the leopard for over an hour. Tjololo had numerous porcupine quills some as long as 20cm imbedded in his throat area, as well as in his paws. He had licked an area on his back foot completely raw in an effort to rid himself of a quill. Treatment involved the removal of all quills and disinfecting the sites of the wounds and quill punctures. Someway near completion of his treatment, which only took 20 minutes, the leopard began to experience trouble breathing.
In an effort to remedy this, the antidote to the tranquilizer drug was immediately administered. Notwithstanding this, it was evident that the infection in the leopard was too advanced and his condition too poor to recover from his ordeal. The Rock Drift Male could not be revived.
It is not unusual for old predators to succumb to the temptation of porcupine as a diet invariably exacerbated by their own old age and inability to hunt prey more substantial and less dangerous. It seems as if Tjololo, who after many years on MalaMala, was reaching the end of his life and had been marginalized by younger male leopards.
Goodbye Tjololo. You have been a member of the MalaMala Family as a dominant male since 1998. You will be sorely missed.