The long grass of late summer is a dangerous place to be. By the time the darkness descends on the moonless night, an unsuspecting herd of impalas has become increasingly vulnerable to a silent attack from the Vomba 3:3 Young Female. At 2 and a half years, this young leopard’s lithe muscles quiver with excitement before she releases the tension and bolts forward. Her speed and surprise confuses the unsuspecting prey as she knocks the impala ewe down, quickly clasping at the neck to begin a rapid suffocation.

Hours later, she has removed the stomach and dragged the limp prey into a thicket. Later that day she feeds again and then prepares to hoists the half-eaten carcass into a Marula tree. Her small body heaves with determination when she slips and almost loses the prey, however she regroups and completes the hoist. As the late afternoon sun draws closer to the horizon she then turns and poses for the photographers in the most quintessential of bushveld moments.

Why is it that this leopard is seemingly more energetic than any other leopard of Londolozi?  When we watched her kill an impala lamb at the beginning of the year we assumed she was developing at a better than normal rate, however our assumptions seem to underestimate her.  Other leopards of 30 months might be bringing down hadedas and small duikers…not killing full grown impalas and then hoisting them up trees. Why is it that she does not walk with the slow studied esteem that is indicative of most leopards, but rather bounds with rampant restlessness? Something is driving her and we don’t know what it is…

A Quintessential Vomba Young Female

A Quintessential Vomba Young Female

At her age, most leopards move away from the natal care of their mother and step into an independent, nomadic existence for another 2 years. Yet it appears that the Vomba 3:3 Young Female is somewhat more evolved. Abandoned by her mother, the Vomba 3:2 Female, at 12 months, she has been forced to grow up quickly and now acts and with the confidence of a leopard 2 years her senior.

She seems to have staked out a territory for herself. With a large portion of river frontage it is surprising than an older leopard didn’t snap it up. Rather, she has taken ownership of it. No questions asked or punches pulled, she has established herself and now marks her boundaries in carefully constructed patrols.

Vomba 3:3 Young Female with hoisted impala

Vomba 3:3 Young Female with hoisted impala

An hour after sunset, the carcass is secured safely around the branch of the tree and the ranger’s spotlight flicks onto the 4 hyena’s who whimper below it. Nestled on another branch above, the Vomba 3:3 Young Female looks on. She is unfazed as she is aware that the remaining carcass, much like her territory, is hers for as long as she is able to keep it. If this encounter is anything to go by, we are optimistic that it is going to be for a very long time….

Filmed by: David and Ben Ford (Londolozi Guests)
Photographed by: Adam Bannister

Filed under Wildlife

About the Author

Rich Laburn

Head of Digital

Rich is the driving force behind Londolozi’s online storytelling and the Londolozi blog. His passions of digital media, film and photography, combined with his field-guiding background, have seen him take the Londolozi blog to new heights since he began it in 2009. Rich ...

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on A Quintessential Leopard Hoist

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Thanks again David and Ben for catching this on film. This is by far the most impressive ‘hoist’ i’ve seen in the last 7 years!


How cool was that! I am not the biggest leopard fan in the world but I think a leopard like this could change my mind……


Linda, Agreed! She is spectacular to watch and just so interesting to observe as she grows up towards maturity. Thanks for your thoughts.


Actually these shots are all Ben’s, not mine. Thanks, Tom, for a truly memorable few days!


I think this female leopard is a warning to us about the objective impossibility of putting in a standard the physical and mental characteristics of the leopards .
This is the culmination of individuality and diversity, the nemesis of standardization.
Greetings to all


Allesio, your comment is spot on. Many naturalists learn huge amounts about nature through textbooks which have a paragraph or two devoted to animal behaviour. However, as most guides will tell you, nothing is certain out here in the wild and as much as a specie’s behaviour may indicate standardization, each animal does in fact have its own unique individuality and diversity. It is the uniqueness of each of these animals lives and how they consistently rewrite the rule books which interests me so much. Thanks for your thought provoking comment. Rich

Jos van Bommel

Hi guys, my wive, Yvette, and I have been to Londoz about 20 times by now in the last 10 years. We have seen, filmed and photographed at least over 30 different leopards over that period.
I learned the following quickly: do not rely on textbook! rely on your own observation and accept it as it is. Don’t convert (y)our views into exceptional stories and rewrite “rule books”. It often need to much assumptions to back up the stories.
As soon as you start read textbooks you think you know the whole story, and that is a totally wrong assumption.
Every leopard is an individual, developing from it’s birth till the day is dies and we simply don’t know how they develop, we only witness a maximum of 5% of their live span. This is far to less to become scientific. The 5% is valid for Londoz and then for some leopards only, at all other game reserves it is far less then 5%.
But you know what: I am back in May, can’t wait to see leopards again.


Thanks for your thoughts Jos, it is not hard to see why you keep coming back to view these magnificent cats. In addition to being extremely beautiful to photograph, their behaviour and lives are just as inspiring to watch and appreciate as they unfold. I think that rulebooks provide context, however they are not absolute and it is this unknowing of what could potentially happen on any given day which makes spending time with these cat and many other animals so fantastically exciting. Thanks again for your thoughts. Rich


She is amazing. I’m sure (I hope) that she will be around till 15 or 17.


Morty I am hesitant to talk to soon, however if she continues to occupy her current territory and mature into an established female, she has the potential to become one of the legendary leopards of Londolozi. Our fingers are crossed.

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