The outlook is bleak. Let’s get that out the way.
Without any conclusive proof of the death of a leopard, it is impossible to say for sure within a few weeks of their last sighting that they are in fact dead, but, sadly, all the evidence is pointing strongly towards the Tamboti female being gone for good.
The Tamboti female inhabits the south-eastern sections of Londolozi, having a large part of her territory along the Maxabene Riverbed.
This isn’t an obituary or tribute post in any way (that will come later), and I’m sorry to start everyone’s Monday with a bit of a downer, but I just thought we should go through one or two of the facts in order to prepare for the inevitable acceptance.
Fact 1. She was looking incredibly poorly when last encountered.
When a leopard is seen in the condition that this female was, its chances of recovery are slim. There are exceptions of course, notably the Ndzanzeni female, who recovered from an injury to one of her back legs, but more often than not such extensive atrophying of the muscles will result in a snowballing decline, as the leopard is less and less able to hunt for itself and obtain the all-important food necessary for survival and recovery.
This female is a success story all in herself, being born as a single cub to the Dudley Riverbank female in early 2012.
Fact 2. We haven’t been seeing her tracks.
Just like humans have different sized feet, leopards have different sized and shaped tracks. The Nanga female has tiny tracks, while the Camp Pan male was sometimes confused with a lioness, so big were the pug marks he left behind.
The Londolozi trackers are able to differentiate between the leopards without too much difficulty, and are easily able to identify the Tamboti female’s distinctively long tracks. None of them have confirmed a track of the Tamboti female in the area for a couple of weeks now.
The distinctive over-sized tracks of the Mashaba female have been found all the way to Londolozi’s eastern borders, and the Ndzanzeni female’s smaller, rounder tracks have been seen coming up from the south, but of the sleek tracks of the Tamboti female, no sign.
Fact 3. Other Females are moving in.
The Mashaba and Ximungwe females have both been seen scent marking and vocalising in areas that the Tamboti female used to patrol. In the case of the Mashaba female, who is a big leopard, this isn’t necessarily conclusive, as she may have just been taking advantage of the Tamboti female’s injuries to expand her own territory, but the Ximungwe female is still a young leopard, and not even close to full size yet. If she is establishing territory where the Tamboti female would normally be aggressively defending, it seem safe to say that the Tamboti female simply isn’t around to be aggressive.
The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the camps and vehicles.
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
We’re beginning to accept the inevitable here. Whilst there may be a last shred of hope lingering in most of us that the Tamboti female will turn up out of the blue, it might be best to start the process of moving on…