Graeme Marais was a ranger at Londolozi from 2009-2011, and being one of the best birders the reserve has ever cultivated, he is often brought in to help run the birding component of the ranger training courses.

I stayed at his house in Johannesburg recently, and while browsing along his bookshelf I noticed a large hardback photo-book of the kind printed these days by camera shops, in which you submit your photos digitally and they print them out in a book format which you design.

It was the Londolozi Leopard ID kit from late 2010, and while browsing through it I couldn’t believe the complete turnover that Londolozi has undergone in the last six years.
There were no leopards in that book that we currently view under the same names, and a significant portion of the dominant leopards at the time now occupy the “Recently Deceased” section in the current ID kit.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been all that surprised, as six years is a fair amount of time in a wild animal population, particularly leopards. It has just been such a gradual population metamorphosis that I barely noticed it was happening. It’s only when one stops to think that you realize which individuals have come and gone.

Let’s review a few…

In that early ID kit, the Marthly male was a rarely seen individual only seldom encountered in the far north-west reaches of Londolozi. The Camp Pan male dominated a huge area from south of the Maxabene riverbed to the Manyelethi, a similar area to that patrolled by the 4:4 male at the moment. The Marthly male would end up pressurizing the Camp Pan male away from his Sand River haunts and into semi-obscurity in the deep south, himself fathering multiple cubs in the process. The Piva male, currently dominant on east-central Londolozi, was not even born yet!

Camp Pan and Nottens

The Camp Pan male (pictured right) dwarfs the much smaller Nottens female.

Both the Camp Pan and Marthly males are gone now, consigned to memory and the pages of photobooks, while the 4:4, Piva and Inyathini males patrol the self-same game paths that their predecessors wandered down.

On the female front the Tutlwa female was only recently independent and not territorial yet, and was still named the Vomba young female accordingly. The Mashaba female was still the 3:3 female cub of the Vomba female, and of course the Vomba female herself was still alive. The Maxabene female was alive and well and was just in the process of pushing her two sons, the Maxabene 3:2 (subsequently Tu-Tones) and 3:3 (currently Makhotini) males into independence. At less than two years of age they already outweighed their diminutive mother by a substantial margin, and she must have had a hard time keeping them well fed.

Leopard

The Maxabene female had a tough life, becoming independent at only 11 months. She disappeared in 2012 whilst still raising a young cub.

In the north the Nanga female was just the tiny 3:3 female cub of the Nyelethi female, a leopard who I sadly never saw, despite starting my own journey at Londolozi while she was still alive. Unusually among leopards, that litter of three that the Nanga female came from all made it to independence, a rare occurrence in an area in which the cub mortality is so high.

These are just a few of the names that have changed or gone. The Manyelethi and Mhangeni males as well as the Ravenscourt, Dudley Riverbank and Notten’s females are a couple more of the old guard that no longer pad silently down the dusty tracks of the African bush.

Nottens

The old Nottens female in Londolozi’s deep south. This photograph was taken when she was already 17 years old.

And just as I was astounded by how completely different the leopard ID kit of 2010 was to the one of today, so was Graeme surprised to realize that he recognised so few of the leopard names that today’s rangers track and view on a daily basis. Whereas Graeme would have called in the name of the Camp Pan male on the radio many times over, the Inyathini male is a totally foreign name to him. His photographs from his time at Londolozi are from a different era, and different faces will stare back at him from a computer screen or the pages of a book.

It is not sad, it is not a morbid recounting of those animals come and gone, it is simply the change that is the only real constant in the bush. The individual animals may come and go, but as iconic as each one might have been, it is the legacy they leave behind, and the continuation of their species in this remarkable wilderness area that is truly special.

Filed under Leopards

About the Author

James Tyrrell

Photographic Guide/Media Team

James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills were well developed, and he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team as a result. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the photographic skills ...

View James's profile

6 Comments

on The Times They Are A-Changing

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

barbara jones
Guest

This is my dream job!!

Judy B.
Guest

Love the history of the leopards! By the way, I am no longer receiving the blog. Can someone add me back in?

Amy Attenborough

Hi Judy. Of course we can. Will sort that out for you. Please let me know if the problem persists. Thanks, Amy

TED SWINDON
Guest

HI JAMES,
YOU CERTAINLY BROUGHT BACK SOME REALLY GOOD MEMORIES FOR ME.
I HAVE SPENT MANY HOURS AT LONDOLOZI DURING THIS SAME TIME PERIOD PHOTOGRAPHING AND VIEWING THESE MAGNIFICENTS LEOPARDS OVER THE YEARS, BUT TIMES MOVE ON AS WITH OUR LIVES.
I CAN TELL YOU THAT IT IS NO DIFFERENT NOW TO WHAT IT WAS THEN, THE LEOPARDS ARE STILL AS MAGNIFICENT AS EVER BEFORE, THE VIEWING IS STIIL SOME OF THE BEST LEOPARD VIEWING ON THE CONTINENT, AND PHOTOGRAPHICALLY, IT IS STILL ONE OF MY VERY BEST LOCALITIES FOR LEOPARD PHOTOGRAPHY.
I WAS EXTREMELY PRIVELEDGED TO VIEW ALL THE GREAT LEOPARDS YOU MENTION IN THIS GREAT BLOG.
THE NYLETHI FEMALE AND HER THREE SMALL CUBS WHICH SHE RAISED TO ADULT HOOD, WE NOW HAVE HAD THE PRIVELEDGE OF VIEWING THE BEAUTIFUL AND PETITE NANGA FEMALE, I HOPE SHE IS STILL ALIVE.
THE GRACEFUL LADY WHICH WAS NOTTENS, THE MAXABENE FEMALE WHO RAISED HER TWO BIG MALE CUBS, AND THE CAMP PAN MALE.
WHAT A PLEASURE AND PRIVELEDGE IT WAS TO HAVE VIEWED, AND PHOTOGRAPHED THESE LEOPARDS.
LONG MAY LONDOLOZI CONTINUE TO BE THE BEST PLACE ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT FOR LEOPARD VIEWING AND PHOTOGRAPHY!
KIND REGARDS,
TED.

Blair S
Guest

As usual James another great blog and I love your pics of the legend Camp Pan such a beast even if Anderson is slightly bigger than him he will never be the legend Camp Pan he will be his own legend like you said each leaves their own legacy that helps the species both from an offspring point of view and a conservation point of view on the subject of “The Ghost” have you seen him lately or is he still hanging most of the time in EP

James Tyrrell

Hi Blair,
Apologies for late reply.
If by the Ghost you mean the Anderson male, yes sightings of him continue to be inconsistent. Maybe one every couple of weeks or so. I imagine he is around a bit more than we know of, but with most of our excursions to the north of the property being focused around the Tsalala pride that are currently denning small cubs in the Manyelethi, leopard activity in the far northwestern corner often takes a back seat!

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