It has been a little over a month since the passing of the Xidulu Female leopard, who was killed by the new Avoca coalition of male lions who have made their presence felt in the last few weeks. At the time of her passing she left behind her latest litter; a male and female cub that had just turned the 12 month corner and have now been forced into independence. With sightings of this young pair becoming less and less frequent, the chances of their survival was a hotly debated topic amongst the rangers and trackers.

However, this morning was not to be a morning of sorrow but rather a morning of excitement and relief.

16
Xidulu 2:3 Female
2001 - present

The daughter of Sunsetbend female, is named Xidulu which means termite mound in Shangaan.

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Xidulu 2:3 Female

Lineage
Sunsetbend
Identification
markings
Timeline
15 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
1 known
Litters
1 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist

Three rangers in training, Bruce Arnott, Rob Jeffery and I were heading out in search of the Avoca coalition that had been heard in the early hours of the morning, roaring from the south east of Londolozi. The unmistakable “chitt-chitt-chitt-chitt” of a squirrel’s alarm call caught the keen ear of Rob who immediately decided to head in that direction, as with any alarm call, it is always worth following up on.

As we crossed the dry Maxabene river bed in a densely vegetated area of Tamboti trees and Red Spike thorns, Bruce, who was sitting on the tracker’s seat, gave three quick taps on the bonnet of the Land Rover, a sure sign that he had come across some tracks. Tracks in soft sand can be difficult to age as they hold well and we were without an experienced tracker at the time but we all agreed that they had been made that morning. The small tracks of a female leopard were heading upstream in the river bed. Anticipating her movements, Bruce suggested we loop round to the next crossing. Rob agreed from the driver’s seat and put his foot on the gas.

As with any unknown leopard track, the three of us began to suggest options for which individual we believed the tracks were made by. Most of the more commonly seen female leopards had been seen that morning and were far from where we were, which effectively ruled them out. Excitement grew in us as we realised we may be following the tracks of a new leopard to the area, while Rob suggested that it may be a large civet instead (it wasn’t).
As we descended into the river bed once again and came round the bend where a fallen Jackalberry tree had obscured the view further downstream, we were suddenly greeted by the rosette pattern of a young female leopard, ambling through the soft sand, bouncing in and out of the sunlight that filtered its way through the tree tops from above.

Bruce’s excitement as his eyes met the rosettes of the young leopard skyrocketed, and his hand attempted to repeat the three taps on the vehicle’s bonnet to signal to Rob to stop, but in his excitement and not wanting to take his eyes off the leopard, couldn’t find the bonnet. Rob was scanning the adjacent river bank, probably looking at a woodpecker, when I urgently said, “leopard, there’s a river bed in the leopard!”, jumbling my words up hopelessly. Rob finally saw her and hit the brakes, causing the vehicle to jolt in the soft sand, sending Bruce’s Ray Bans flying into the riverbed below with Bruce himself gripping his seat with white knuckles, his gaze never averting from the leopard. We all stared fixated on this young female in front of us.

The first view of the young female leopard. Young females have been known to inherit small portions of their mother’s territory.

There is something special about seeing any leopard, but a young female entering adulthood, seeking out a viable territory that she will be able to hunt in and potentially raise cubs in, really does draw one into a deeper appreciation of how special it is to see these magnificent animals.

The young female stays close to the dry river bed’s banks. The riverine vegetation is suited to bushbuck and impala, favourite prey of the leopard, as there is abundance to feed on there during the drier months.

With her golden coat that is attributed to her heritage of the Sunset bend female’s lineage, this young female displays her beauty as the sun shines upon her.

Sunset Bend Female was born in August 1992 and provided some unbelievable Leopard viewing at Londolozi until her death in 2010.

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Sunset Bend 2:2 Female

Lineage
Sunsetbend
Identification
markings
Timeline
6 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
0 known
Litters
3 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist

This young leopard did not seem to be disturbed by the vehicle as she approached. The very pink nose is an indication of her youth as leopard noses tend to go grey or spotted and eventually black, the older they get.

Her ears alert to the sounds of the bush surrounding her; leopards have a extraordinary sense of hearing and will be alert to prey species that may not be seen but can be heard.

Once the three of us had regained our composure and recollected Bruce’s sunglasses, we followed this young female up and out of the river bed and into an area thick with buffalo thorns and long grass, when we saw in the distance a herd of impala browsing in the thicket. The leopard’s ears were alert and she moved without fault through the grass, edging her way towards the impalas that had now moved around a termite mound. We watched her crawl her way up to the top but as with most youths she was too eager, and the impala saw her and set off in all directions in a flurry of alarm calls. The leopard then decided to lie on top of the mound and enjoy the rest of the morning sun.

The dappled light enhancing her golden coat, it was a fitting end to the morning to see her lie down on a termite mound, her namesake…

It was then, as the three of us watched her on top of the termite mound, that realisation dawned. This was no unknown female, it was the missing female cub of the late Xidulu female, found again after many weeks absence.

The Shangaan word for termite mound is Xidulu. The three of us sat there with broad smiles on our faces as we watched this cub who bore the same name sit on a termite mound after just missing an impala. She was hunting and moving in and around Londolozi again and will hopefully be seeking out a territory for herself here. What was once lost had now been found again.

Involved Leopards

Xidulu 2:3 Female

Xidulu 2:3 Female

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Sunset Bend 2:2 Female

Sunset Bend 2:2 Female

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About the Author

Liam Henderson

Field Guide

Liam was educated in the Eastern Cape for high school and Stellenbosch for his university days where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in environmental development and conservation. His love for the bush grew from a year spent in East Africa between high school ...

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32 Comments

on Lost & Found

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Vicky Auchincloss
Guest

How incredibly wonderful in so many ways! Victoria

Darlene Knott
Guest

What a superbly written blog! We felt like we were sitting in the vehicle with you! The excitement was palpable. It is so wonderful to know that this beautiful female leopard has survived to further her species. Beautiful story and photos. Thanks for sharing, Liam!

Liam Henderson

Thank you Darlene, it was pure excitement amongst us! We hope to have many more encounters with this young female in the future.

Lea
Guest

What a nice surprise for the three of you Liam. She is a really beautiful leopard and hopefully she will go on to being a good mother – as was her mother. A nice blog Liam, thank you.

Liam Henderson

We hope that she finds herself an area to call her own within Londolozi and that we have many more similar encounters of jumbled words and flying sunglasses at the sight of her.

Pranav
Guest

You guys do a fabulous job. Love your writing. Not just Liam, but the rest of the team too. Thanks again.

Liam Henderson

Thank you for your kind words and we are looking forward to keeping you up to date with the young females development.

Senior Moment
Guest

Great story

Barbara Bethke
Guest

Thanks for the lovely story of that missing female cub. Delightful baby face but self-confidently, hope she will survive.

Liam Henderson

It was a phenominal morning that the three of us wont forget. Looking forward to our next encounter with this young female.

Wendy Hawkins
Guest

Oh Liam welcome to the Londo Blogs! I did have a good chuckle at your “muddle of words” in excitement! I don’t think there is one of us who hasn’t!! I am so glad that you have found this beautiful young leopardess & hope that her brother is safe too 🙂 Enjoy your drives & training & look forward to more from you trainees 🙂

Liam Henderson

Thank you for the kind words Wendy, it really was a morming that the three of us wont forget. We hope to find her brother soon and have a similar experience.

Gillian Evans
Guest

that’s great news! So happy that the female cub is surviving on her own! Lovely last photo on the termite mound. Any news on the other cub?

Liam Henderson

It really was a fitting end to see her up on that termite mound. No sign of the young male as of yet but we are remaining hope after her discovery.

Gill Cederwall
Guest

I LOVED reading this post. I have a happy heart for reading this! Thank you.

Liam Henderson

Thank you for the kind words, this young female definitely had an impact on the three of us.

Carol Sturgeon
Guest

This makes me very happy and looking forward to more photos and stories of her and her story to be told on Londolozi! I hope you find her brother.one of these expeditions. So excited and exhilarated to know she is moving in her mother’s footsteps! She is lovely!!!! Londolozi is on my bucket list! Don’t know if I’ll ever have funds to make it happen, but I can learn about the cats and all living wonderful animals and beautiful scenery and other creatures through your blogs! Thank you.😊!!

Liam Henderson

Thank you for the kind words and we will do our very best to keep you up to date with her development and growth if she decides to call Londolozi her home.

Cam
Guest

Don’t know how familiar you are with the northern Sabi Sands leopards but do you know if Karula is still around

James Tyrrell

Cam sadly she’s not.

Jill Larone
Guest

Liam, thank you for the wonderful update and beautiful pictures of young Xidulu. It’s fantastic to see her doing well and I’m really hoping her brother is out there somewhere, doing equally as well.

Liam Henderson

We will be on the look out for her brother and hopefully a similar discovery will be had, sunglasses remaining intact this time.

Judy Hayden (Corpus Christi, Texas)
Guest

This is wonderful news. With the loss of this young girls mother, I was so worried. Now to find the brother. Please bring us good news one day. You all are wonderful. I am living my wildlife dreams through you all.

MJ Bradley
Guest

I love that Young Xidulu is doing wonderfully.. I think some mothers are extraordinary at teaching their young about the world around them.. Karula’s two cubs now 17 months old are also doing well since their mothers disappearance 4 months ago.

Mike ryan
Guest

Hi great story, at what stage will you name her for identification. We have not heard one the mashaba young female for some time hope she and mother are flourishing.

James Tyrrell

Hi Mike,
We’ll name her once she shows signs of establishing territory, although we can’t yet be sure that that will be on Londolozi.
The Mashaba female is doing well. She’s expanded territory to the west and ceded to the Nkoveni female in the east, and is about to give birth we think.
The Mashaba young female is still hanging around although we don’t see her that often. She has been spending a lot of time in the donga system to the west of the airstrip. IN fact we just found a drag mark with female leopard tracks heading in there now and suspect she made a kill during the day.
Best regards

Melvena Conradie (Dudley)
Guest

We actually came across her in the early evening on July 2nd, not far from where you found her. We were quite confused about how young this leopard seemed, and why she was on her own. Especially as we had just heard about three female lions being close by. She was quite skittish but very curious, so we got to enjoy her company for a few minutes. It is quite amazing to read this story, and now understand why she was on her own and what she has been through. I hope we will see much more of her in future!

James Tyrrell

Hi Melvena,
Thanks for your comments. We’re also hoping she sticks around! Best wishes, hope Kampfees was lekker!

Mike Ryan
Guest

Thanks James that is so great to hear, we have a huge black and white photos of the young female on our living room wall and so see her every day

Amanda Ritchie

Great blog, Liam… glad you got to see her again! Looking forward to more blog posts from you.

Kim Heckman

Fascinating and very exciting news!! She is beautiful!

Mike Beder

Any news on her brother?

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