It’s turning out to be a month of goodbyes. The Vomba Female hasn’t been seen in over 6 weeks and her large footprints no longer grace the sandy tracks across Sparta.

I remember little of my 6 months in law school other than a person has to be missing for 5 years before they are officially declared dead. If a fabulously wealthy and crazy widower endowed a fortune onto a pedigreed Persian I’m guessing that a court would suggest 6 months would be sufficient for presumption of death. I think for Vomba we’ll accept that 8 weeks is an all-too unusual absence and pay her, her respects now.

The Vomba female shows off her gorgeous dark coat

The Vomba female shows off her gorgeous dark coat

Vomba was the first leopard that hissed at me. As a nervous young guide, she singled me out of three other landrovers and gave me an unforgettable warning. I like to think that she realised I was new and set her boundaries early so as to avoid any insensitive intrusion later on. As a result I’ve always accorded her a great deal of respect and cherished the moments that she allowed me with her.

Long faced, long tailed and amber gold rather than yellow, Vomba was a Londolozi Leopard more than any other. I say that with conviction because as the way female leopard territories work themselve’s out she treated camp as part of her fiefdom. Regularly over the years she walked through camp, slinking along the pathways, visiting gardens and setting monkeys and bushbuck to alarm much the way a gang of youths might disturb cars on a Friday night for kicks. She killed in camp too and her last hoisted bushbuck in the sausage tree off of the Granite Camp Deck had the guests eating in a respectful hush lest they trigger off some growling from the darkness a few metres beyond the balustrade.

A classic shot by David Dampier - the Vomba Female walks beneath the fig's canopy.

A classic shot by David Dampier – the Vomba Female walks beneath the fig that used to grow over the sand river opposite camp

She was a daughter of the SunsetBend female and inherited that uncanny knack for getting cubs to adulthood. She was a good mother that was always harsh on her young once they turned one. It reads in a book somewhere that leopards look after their daughters for 22 months on average and their sons 24 months. Vomba thought 12 to 14 months was adequate and on 3 occasions proved right. If the absence of Egyptian geese around Taylors dam is anything to go by her 14 month old youngster and fourth success, is doing just fine.

For the record: her first offspring was the Trogon Female (not familiar to many and territorial beyond Londolozi), then Tuthlwa Female and a Male who dispersed, relatively recently Mashaba and now the Vomba Young Male: Great Leopards, great genetics and a grand inheritance. I read recently about inheritance within the animal kingdom and that it is confined to territory. In a battle of survival of the fittest, fit animals leave behind advantageous areas in which to thrive. Whether her offspring are as regular within camp as she was remains to be seen but having just lost all my tomato plants to a bushbuck I certainly hope so.

Leopard symmetry, as the Vomba female and her cub lie next to each other shortly after reuniting one evening.

Leopard symmetry, as the Vomba female and her most recent young male cub lie next to each other shortly after reuniting one evening.

We are of course in danger of being premature with her disappearance. She could have found a way to eat all the otters in the Sand River and decided to become more aquatic in her habits. She might also have left the young male to get on with his own devices. For a while we’ll do the Elvis thing and speculate that we’re tracking her – or that the female in the half-light it was actually her. A resurrection would be wonderful but I’m taking Richard Ferrier’s understated declaration: “I’m worried” to heart.

There is a territorial shift on the go and her absence is causing a slight reshuffle amongst the females. It will be interesting to see who goes where – but more than anything I’ll miss Vomba tremendously: No more sunlit afternoons to pay homage to her special coat and no more special garden visits. Rest well and thank you…

Again a photo that if not converted to black and white, wouldn't have had nearly the same impact

Rest well Vomba

Written by Tom Imrie

About the Author

Tom Imrie

Field Guide

Tom is the voice of wisdom, reason and logic on the Londolozi Ranging Team, as well as all the other facets that go hand-in-hand with being an intellectual far beyond the realm of most mere mortals. There are very few subjects under the ...

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31 Comments

on Who has seen the Vomba female?

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Geri Potter
Guest

So sad. I hope it’s a premature ‘Goodbye’. If not, I wish her a successful hunt and sweet sleep with her predecessors.

Francis Mander
Guest

We really hope Vomba turns up soon. I so enjoyed my stay at Londolozi all those years ago, back in 1977. Struan Murless was a game ranger, and my cousins Lance and Bridget Japhet organised the long weekend trip from Joees. Their son is Miles Japhet who lives quite close to you. Catch up soon. Best wishes Francis Mander and family.

Laura
Guest

Beautifully written Tom – you should write more often!
I loved Vombie – end of an era..

MJ
Guest

I hope her end journey was swift and painless. She was a beautiful leopard. I breaks ones heart to loose such a leopard as she.. What a wonderful legacy she has left the Sabi Sands and beyond.
Thank you for writing this for us Tom.. My hearts wish is that she proves we were all premature in wish her a good journey from this life.

John Holley
Guest

Incredible piece, thanks Fountain

Zoe
Guest

Oh no, I do hope she is just on an extended vacation. She, along with Camp Pan are my two favourites at Londos. I know she will be greatly missed!

Tracey Katz
Guest

Beautifully written Tom! We will miss her too.

Babot M. Joseph
Guest

We were sad reading this. My family and I enjoyed tracking the Vomba Female one golden afternoon
last May with ranger Dan. Have great, wonderful shots of her. Thank you for the beautiful words. Privileged to have encountered her that day.

Tony Goldman
Guest

Fabulous article,Tom,she will certainly be missed,but the circle of life continues as we saw her male cub last week and he seems to be doing well and looking good despite being left to fend for himself at a younger age than expected.

Merle
Guest

The ending photo caused tears to well up as I read the fitting comments about the Vomba female and the compliments paid to your tribute. I will miss the opportunity of seeing her this December…but hope springs eternal….

Suzanne Myers
Guest

It is always so sad to see our favorites leave us. They become such a large piece of our lives and heart…. You word so beautiful!!! Thank-you for the update… hopefully soon another with good news!!!!!

Mary Beth Wheeler
Guest

Oh no! We had such a beautiful afternoon in May with her and her son, climbing trees together, mutually grooming, tails intertwined. I too hope this memorial is premature, but if not, I am thankful to have seen and photographed her!

Arden Zalman
Guest

She is remembered

Wendy Hawkins
Guest

What a magnificent Leopard, lets hope that this is premature & that she will just walk through the camp once more & surprise you 🙂

When you say that the fig tree used to grow, does that mean it has died, or was washed down in the floods??

Beautiful narrative & pictures of a really stunning dark coated Queen. Thanks Tom

Shveta
Guest

She is my favourite leopard in Londolozi…hope I will be surprised by her return on our visit in a couple of weeks.

Sandy Johnson
Guest

This news breaks my heart. It’s sad to lose any of the wonderful animals at Londolozi but especially so when it is one you had the pleasure of meeting in your short time at this amazing place. I’ll remember you always beautiful Vomba.

maxine gaines
Guest

Ah no Tom!!!!! Not Vomba. Had such wonderful sightings of her and her young male on our last visit to Londoz in April. She looked so well. Will be holding thumbs with all of you that she turns up in camp soon. Healthy and strong.

Beau Bethune
Guest

Tom, that last photo of the Vomba female is unbelievably moving, to say the least. Observed she and her cub for a few hours one day during our visit back in May. I sent some of those photos to Dean and Talley earlier today – they aren’t masterpieces, but I figured that you all might want to add them to the archives. Thank you for a very moving update on such a wonderful animal. Hoping for the best here…

Martin Clarke
Guest

I know how easy it is to fall in love with a beautiful leopardess.

Kim Johnson
Guest

Wonderfully shared, Tom. She was an absolute beauty from these pictures. So very sorry for yet another goodbye. Please continue to share with us, we want to hear your voice.

Anna
Guest

Brilliantly written as always Tom. Thank you.

mike
Guest

R.I.P. VOMBA

Heidi
Guest

I’m so sad. I had the privilege of seeing her. I will always keep her in my thoughts!

Brian C
Guest

NO! I love old lady leopards (and lions), especially the daughters of Sunset Bend and 3:4. This has been a tough year! Vomba was an exceptional huntress and mother, as we have learned over the years from this blog. Strangely, in the last 3 months, Vomba’s sister Ntima (aka Campbell Koppies) has also disappeared, to the northeast of Londolozi. I would prefer to think the two sisters met up and are on a bender together in Kruger Park- but not too likely!
This means only two Sunset Bend daughters are left (that I know of), Tamboti and Xidulu. On the 3:4 side, Dudley Riverbank and Nottens female are pretty old. I better plan on visiting Londolozi in the next year if I hope to see these iconic ladies.
Of course there is always the new generation of leopards… Mashaba and Tutlwa seem to be following in their mother and grandmother’s footsteps.
Peace and love to the Vomba female and all her offspring!

Sue Prince
Guest

Such sad news Tom, she was wonderful, great pics and review, here’s hoping you may see her paw prints very very soon!

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