With 2017 seeing the senior leopard population of Londolozi taking some serious blows, in the form of the Piva male’s and Xidulu female’s deaths, both killed by the Avoca male lions, the start of this year has produced some wonderfully contrasting sightings, with a totally different leopard turning up alive and well recently.
The daughter of Sunsetbend female, is named Xidulu which means termite mound in Shangaan.
Directly descended from the original mother leopard and therefore part of the royal lineage of Londolozi.
We can’t quite call these happy endings, as the leopards involved are still young and (hopefully) have their whole lives to play out, but on top of the rediscovery of the Tatowa female’s cubs last month, we now have the wonderful news of the Xidulu Young female being seen less than a kilometre from the Londolozi camps.
Many of you will remember that the Xidulu female was raising two 14-month old cubs at the time of her death. Both were just about old enough to be able to fend for themselves, particularly the female (females tend to leave their mothers slightly earlier than males). What we couldn’t predict was the death of the Piva male a few months later, who was the dominant male that patrolled the territory in which the cubs were being raised. Within a week, the Inyathini male had moved in from the south and was seen patrolling almost the exact same routes of his predecessor, which spelt big trouble for the newly-independent cubs, particularly the young male.
Since no more sightings were had of the male Xidulu cub, we had to presume that he had been killed, or at least been forced out of the area. The latter was less likely, since the Piva male was still in control of the territory for a number of months after the Xidulu female’s death, and would almost certainly have been tolerant of a young male that he presumed to be his offspring.
Whatever the case, the male cub was seen no more, but of the female there were one or two intermittent sightings. Given that her immediate threats would more likely have come from females moving in to claim her mother’s territory, most notably the Nkoveni female, she would have been under serious pressure to keep a low profile.
She was seen once or twice around the Maxabene riverbed, but after that not for a good few months on Londolozi. Mala Mala reported her around her around their airstrip on a few occasions, but it has only been in the last week or so that we have had confirmed sightings of her back on Londolozi.
As fantastic as it is that she is alive and well, the fact remains that there is little space her for her. The area to the east of camp is firmly occupied by the Nkoveni female, with the Piccadilly female making consistent inroads. To the south and west of camp the big Mashaba female has been dominant for a number of years now, and further south one starts encountering the Tamboti female, Londolozi’s senior female.
The Tamboti female inhabits the south-eastern sections of Londolozi, having a large part of her territory along the Maxabene Riverbed.
A young female that lives to the east and south of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.
What chance does a diminutive 23-month old leopard have of eking out an existence amongst these much larger females, none of whom will be tolerant of her, despite possible genetic ties (the Piccadilly female is technically her older sister)?
Leopards are tremendously adaptable creatures, and with an absolute plethora of game around the Sand River, as well as extensive thickets in which to move and hide away, there is no reason that a small and resourceful female could not lead an unobtrusive existence for quite some time here. She would almost certainly bump into other individuals, and aggressive encounters would be almost guaranteed, but she’s now well past that magic 12-month mark. She has made it this far in the exact same circumstances just described, so really she just has to keep doing what she’s been doing.
Whether she keeps doing it on Londolozi however, remains to be seen…