I remember the first time I saw the Tutlwa female. Draped over a fallen Marula tree on Ximpalapala crest, north of the Sand River, she was gazing longingly at a distant herd of impala, imagining a nice easy meal. It was not to be though, as the impala were way out in the open, and so she slunk down into the grass and walked slowly back down the hill towards the riverbed.
The Tutlwa female is one of Londolozi’s most enigmatic leopards, and in my opinion, it’s most beautiful. That being said, sightings of this elusive animal have been rare over the past year, as she has – so far successfully – been raising two cubs, keeping them mainly in the Sand River, which offers a wonderful array of hiding places for young leopards.
Many members of Londolozi’s ranging team have spent often fruitless hours tracking her and her litter in and amongst the boulder fields and wild date palm thickets with which the riverbed is strewn, sometimes to be rewarded with a brief glimpse of a spotted tail disappearing into the bushes, but more often than not having the trail run cold. After losing her first cub around December 2010, the Tutlwa female has put her heart into raising her current litter, and her success in this endeavor has unfortunately meant that we have not often had the privilege of viewing the youngsters, as concealment is the name of the game for leopard cubs.
Maybe in the next few months the cubs (a male and a female) will relax around the vehicles a bit more and we will be treated to some wonderful sightings of them and their mother chasing each other through the treetops. For now, though, we have to content ourselves with the occasional sighting of the Tutlwa female herself, still to be found draped over marula branches, still, at least for me, Londolozi’s most beautiful leopard.
Written and Photographed by: James Tyrrell