At Londolozi we are incredibly lucky to have been able to view leopards regularly since the late 1970s. This can be attributed to a couple of factors. Firstly, Londolozi offers prime leopard habitat as there are many seasonal rivers with the associated riparian vegetation offering good cover as well as potential den sites. These areas of dense vegetation are interspersed with clearings which abound with general game such as impala, being the major prey species of leopard.
Although Londolozi does has a higher leopard density than many other wilderness areas throughout Africa, in truth, most of the credit for our phenomenal leopard viewing should go to the numerous rangers and trackers who, over the years, have put in many hours of hard work tracking these animals, spending time viewing them and documenting their incredible behaviour.
As a consequence of these leopards becoming relaxed, we have been able to, over time, follow the various lineages and document the lives of individual leopards. A lot of this information on the individual leopards and their lineages has been aggregated and detailed on the Leopards of Londolozi website.
The first cub of the legendary 3:4 female, the Nottens female grew to be the oldest recorded leopard on Londolozi (18yrs)
Born to the Tugwaan female in August 1992, this leopard would redefine the relationship between man and wild cat.
With the regular viewing of these leopards, we have become quite accustomed to identifying individual leopards, but we often forget that this is not so for many of the guests at Londolozi and elsewhere in Africa who are experiencing leopard viewing for the first time.
The most accepted means of leopard identification is by using spot patterns. This seems to be quite confusing to people who aren’t familiar with it and rightly so. If we refer to the Tu Tones 3:2 young male or the Camp Pan 4:3 male, we are refering to the number of spots on each side of their whiskers.
- A spot pattern refers to the upper most row of spots on the leopard’s cheeks. These are the spots above the upper line of whiskers.
- The spot pattern is made up of the number of spots first on the right cheek and then the left cheek.
The Tu Tones male astounded everyone by establishing his territory within his father Camp Pan's territory.
Identifying leopards based on spot patterns isn’t always that easy, as often the leopards are moving or at a distance. There is also the possibility that there will be a few leopards with the same combination of spots, eg. both the Dudley Riverbank 3:3 Female and the Mashaba 3:3 Female have 3:3 spot patterns. It is therefore much easier if leopards have other features that can be used to identify them.
An example of this feature is the scar (black line) under the Camp Pan 4:3 Male’s right eye, which has also been circled in the picture above. Other examples include the 2 notches in the left ear of the Tamboti 4:3 Female or the simply clear age difference between the Mashaba 3:3 Female and the Dudley Riverbank 3:3 Female.
The Dudley Riverbank female was another successful cub of the 3:4 female that reached old age, eventually passing away at just over 17 years
The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the camps and vehicles.
The Tamboti female inhabited the south-eastern sections of Londolozi, having a large part of her territory along the Maxabene Riverbed.
Lastly, as rangers and trackers at Londolozi, we have the added advantage of knowing the territories of the various leopards, therefore if we are driving in a particular area, we are aware of which leopards we are likely to see. Leopards will seldom, if ever, cross territorial boundaries.
The Vomba 3:2 Female’s profile displays over 16 years of territorial movement throughout her life on Londolozi.
The Vomba female was a leopard with an instantly recognisable rich golden coat. She spent much of her life around the Londolozi Camps.
Now that I have explained the process, let’s see if you can identify the spot patterns of the following leopards. You can search for each leopards profile on the Leopards of Londolozi website. Extra points if you can also give me the name of the leopard :-).
Which of these 7 leopards can you identify? I can’t wait to see everyone’s answers. Keep following this post to see if you got them right.