The north of the Londolozi property is my absolute favourite section, but it can be hit or miss when it comes to finding predators up there. Established sightings are one thing, but when you are going in blind, tracking through big blocks and along extensive drainage lines, it takes a lot of commitment and often most of a morning. Many are the times that trackers have opted to stay out on foot rather than return to the lodge defeated. I remember Andrea Sithole tracking the Mhangeni pride once, climbing off the car and grabbing a single 500mm bottle of water from ranger Mark Nisbet’s cooler-box to see him through the heat of the day. When it came time to for Mark and his guests to head out on afternoon drive, Andrea was still on foot in the searing heat, hours later, and it was only after Mark had been out for about an hour already that Andrea finally radioed in that he had found the pride, miles from where had started the track. Commitment, I tell you!

Leopards in particular are tough to track in the north, with many rocky areas providing difficult substrates across which to follow, and to be honest the majority of sightings in the north-western section around Ximpalapala koppie in particular either involve spotting the leopard in the flesh or being alerted by the alarm calls of herbivores to the presence of a predator.

ximp-cub

Ximpalapala Koppie rises in the background while one of the Ximpalapala female’s cubs from her 2013 litter rests on a fallen marula tree.

For the better part of a decade, the inconsistency of leopard sightings in one of Londolozi’s most spectacular areas has been in large part also due to the skittish nature of the resident female leopard. For many years she was known only as “that skittish female who lives around Ximpalapala”, until a few photos were captured of her and she officially became known as the Ximpalapala female. Records of her life are sketchy at best, but we have strong reasons to believe she was actually a litter-mate of the Tugwaan male, born to the Short-Tailed female sometime around 2002. Her furtive nature was most likely a product of her environment, as her contact with vehicles would have been irregular at best in the area that she established herself, unlike her brother who moved into a core area on Londolozi and was tracked and viewed far more frequently.

Towards the end of 2015 and into early 2016, it appeared as though the female was beginning to relax slightly in the presence of Land Rovers, although we would still have to keep our distance in a sighting else she would slink into the nearest thicket in an attempt to melt away.

ximpalapala-female

A rare photo of the notoriously skittish Ximpalapala female. She was mating with the Gowrie male in this sighting; thankfully she seemed to be more relaxed around the vehicles in the presence of the much larger male.

Around the middle of this year, however, we started to realise that we hadn’t recorded a sighting of the Ximpalapala female in quite some time. This in itself was no cause for concern, as we would sometimes go months without a confirmed sighting of her, but when other females were seen more and more frequently within her territory, scent marking and displaying territorial behaviour, we began to accept that something may have happened to her, and she had in all likelihood died.

Without trying to be too callous, the reality is that the deaths or disappearances of some animals diminish us less than others. The Ximpalapala female was so rarely seen that in all honesty, accepting her loss wasn’t and isn’t as distressing a process as it was for, say, the Vomba female or would be for the Mashaba female. I suppose in its own way the lack of sadness is in itself sad, as who are we to place value on one individual more than another?

Whatever the case, the disappearance of the Ximpalapala female has opened up the area for far more relaxed leopards to move in, and so far it has been a mother and daughter pair that have been filling the gap left behind. A two for the price of one, so to speak.

The Ingrid Dam female, also a relative unknown like her predecessor, as well as her daughter (born in 2014), have been the two females we have been viewing in the area, and although not many roads meander through that part of Londolozi, sightings have been consistent enough to make us believe that the two leopards are there to stay. Distinctly symmetrical 4:4 and 5:5 spot patterns on mother and daughter respectively allow for relatively easy identification.

ingrid-dam-female

The Ingrid Dam female in March 2015, when no one really knew who she was.

ingrid-dam-young-female-as-cub

The Ingrid Dam young female as a cub. This photograph was taken in the same sighting as the above picture, and it was only through spot pattern comparisons in the photographic record that we were able to identify the leopard below as the same cub pictured here.

ingrid-dam-young-female

The Ingrid Dam young female from late winter of this year.

Very little background information exists on either individual; the mother we believe originated to the west of Londolozi on the Otawa property, as would her daughter have done by default, and since no commercial lodges exist there, official data on her movements is restricted to a few records and images.

map2

Purple: Current area occupied by the Ingrid Dam Female and her daughter, and the old territory of the Ximpalapala female. Green: Current territory of the Nhlanguleni female. Red: Territory of the Tutlwa female (presumed deceased). 1-5. Locations of above photographs, in order. #2 was far outside the Ximpalapala female’s usual territory, but she had followed the Gowrie male in order to mate with him.

It is more than likely that given the area the two females are currently inhabiting, their stories will unfold as a few intermittent dramas that we are privileged to witness, and it will be up to us to try and fill in the blank spaces in between.

 

 

Filed under Wildlife

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 ...

More stories by James

11 Comments

on Who Are the New Female Leopards in Northern Londolozi?
    Mary Beth Wheeler says:

    The Tutlwa female is presumed dead? A recent conclusion?

    James Tyrrell says:

    Hi Mary Beth,
    Sadly it is something we are starting to have to accept. The last confirmed sighting of her was over three months ago, and while she is a female that will often go awhile without anyone seeing her, it’s getting to be a little too long now.
    In fact the last properly confirmed sighting was when she had the interaction with the Tsalala pride in a supposed den of debris in the Sand River in front of Granite Camp. Quite possibly she sustained some mortal injuries in that encounter.
    We can’t yet say for sure, but unfortunately it’s starting to look bleak…

    Jill Larone says:

    James, thanks for the update on the new female Leopards of Londolozi. I always love when you add the maps — they’re very helpful! Is there ever the same spot pattern on any two leopards, or are they like finger prints, with no two spot patterns ever being alike?

    James Tyrrell says:

    Hi Jill,
    There are certain leopards with very similar spot patterns (e.g. the Mashaba and Tatowa females both have almost identical 3:3 patterns) but most of the time, before we even go into using the spot pattern for ID purposes, we look at where we are on the property (leopards are highly territorial), the sex, the size, the age of the leopard… We’ll usually know exactly which leopard it is without having to look at the spots on their cheeks. A lot of the time, the leopards are just recognizable, like people, once you have seen them a few times.

    Barry. Bass says:

    Thank you for your blog and out of this world photography. The staff of Londolozi are awesome

    Michael & Terri Klauber says:

    James, Thanks for the update and great shots! Your ever-growing Sarasota gang follows the blogs religiously every day. Can’t wait to return next June!

    Jill Larone says:

    Thank you for your response James. It’s so wonderful, the very close connections you develop with these beautiful creatures, when you recognize each one and watch them grow from small cubs into adults and watch their lives play out. You are very fortunate to be able to live your life amongst these beautiful animals.

    Brian C says:

    Thank you. Now I understand why not much is known about Ingrid Dam and daughter.
    2016 has claimed 3 granddaughters of Sunset Bend–if this is true about Tutlwa (also Tutlwa had a cub!). Terrible news! I can’t wait for this year to be over.

    Also thanks for addressing Ximpalapala. Your northern neighbors (EP) began seeing Ximpalapala at the end of 2015–for a couple months. She also disappeared from their monthly reports around the beginning of the year.
    Looking at the extremely successful Sunset Bend legacy, there is still a heckuva lot of tragedy! I count 14 grand-offspring that reached independence. I have some gaps in my notes—-

    1. Trogden female (2003-?),X Vomba, Early Tragedy?
    2. Ostrich Koppies female (2004-2016 or OK female) on MM, X Campbell Koppies (Ntima), 2 cubs reached independence (1 daughter, 1 son)
    3. YO (2004-2008 twin sister of OK female) X Campbell Koppies (Ntima) Early Tragedy- killed by Styx Pride
    4. Son of Xidulu (Kikileze) 2006-? X Xidulu (Kikileze), fate unknown
    5. Son of Vomba (2006-?must be twin of Tutlwa?, X Vomba, fate unknown to me?
    6. Tutlwa (2006-2016 if true), X Vomba, 1 independent daughter
    7. Maliliwane (2007-2016 -Kwatile in north, Mlowathi female on MM) X Campbell Koppies (Ntima), 1 independent daughter
    8. Another Son of Xidulu-Kikileze (late 2007-early 2008 to 2011? or 2012? X Xidulu (Kikileze), I think he ended up on Singita. But then he disappeared 2011 or 2012. Tragedy?
    9. Mashaba (2008- and still going), X Vomba, 2 Independent daughters
    10, Emsagweni female (2009-and still going) on MM, X Xidulu (Kikileze). No cubs raised to independence yet
    11. Vomba Young male (2012-??) X Vomba, Early Tragedy? Or moved away?
    12. Tamboti Young female (2012- and still carrying on, Island female on MM) , X Tamboti female, Seen on both Londolozi and MM. No cubs yet.
    13. Piccadilly female (2013- and still on MM), X Xidulu (Kikileze) 3:3 daughter
    14. Sibuye female (2013- and still on MM), X Xidulu (Kikileze), the 2:2 daughter

    Great granddaughters/sons of Sunset Bend include Nhlanguleni (b 2011), Nvokeni (b 2012), Maliliwane Young female or Tsakani (b 2014), Split Rock male on MM (b 2014) and the latest! Mashaba Young female (b 2015).The daughter of OK female (b 2009) wandered off into Kruger in 2012 (fate not known).

    James Tyrrell says:

    Hi Brian,

    Wow that’s some good knowledge of the lineages around here!
    To that list you can add a few more Sunset Bend descendants:
    Nhlanguleni female (daughter of Tutlwa, born 2011), still has two cubs of about 13 months, although cubs very skittish.
    Nkoveni female (born 2012, daughter of Mashaba).
    Mashaba young female (born 2015 to Mashaba female).

    The Vomba young male moved East as far as we know.
    The son of Xidulu from #8 I am not too sure of (just before my time) but seem to recall him also reaching independence and moving off.

    A hoisted kill was found a few weeks ago in a drainage line central in the Tutlwa female’s territory but no leopard was seen there. Tracks of a female were in the area. We are going to give it another month before we pronounce her as dead.

    Regards,
    James

    Brian C says:

    Perhaps Tutlwa and cub had a fright and are laying low. We will hope she and cub are sighted in the next few weeks and the future is brighter in 2017.
    Thanks for update of Vomba Young male -good to know he may still be alive!
    Just found out from Johan Snyder that the 2006 son of Xidulu (Kikileze) is the Mahlatini male on Sabi-Sabi who competes with Makhotini/Maxabeni male. He had info that the 2008 son of Xidulu/Kikileze is Mashiabanj male of Idube/Singita area. Its really hard to figure out what happened to the males when they wander away. I made a mistake about the daughter of Ostrich Koppies: born 2010 , not 2009. The Nhlanguleni cubs will be great, great grandchildren of Sunset Bend, which is awesome…. so the legacy lives on. OK! That is enough leopard history for me at the moment.

    Steve M says:

    Don’t know if you’ve seen this Brian? http://leopards.londolozi.com/leopards/

    Might be interested.

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