The Nottens Female (a.k.a. The Shaw’s Female) has just turned 17 years old! This is an incredible achievement for a leopardess in this area. Not only in the wild, but in one of the most dense and competitive leopard populations in Africa. This officially makes her the oldest territorial leopard at Londolozi and I’m sure that she must rank pretty highly within the entire Sabi Sand Game Reserve.
Textbooks throw around figures of longevity/lifespan such as:
10 -15 years for a wild leopard
up to 20 years for a captive leopard
Well the Nottens Female, born in October 1995, is still going strong. Her mother, the legendary 3:4 Female previously held the record. She died back in July 2009, just one month short of her 17th birthday.
3:4 was arguably the greatest leopard to have ever lived; she shared her entire life with us, allowing us a window in to the secretive lives of Leopards. John Varty (JV) spent countless hours following and filming her. Later on, he would produce a documentary entitled ‘The Leopard Queen‘, one of the most moving nature documentaries I have ever seen and a fitting obituary to her marvelous life.
Maxime Gaines, an old Londolozi Ranger wrote this fitting piece upon hearing the news of 3:4’s passing
“I am compelled to think of the many trees that bear the imprint of her claws as she climbed their branches to survey what was hers, or to drag a kill away from other predators. I have placed my fingers into those same sacred marks many times in the past and drawn energy from them.
Those imprints remain to tell her story, for those who care to look for them.
And the sands of the Tugwaan – No longer will they be pressed down with the imprint of her four feet, but so many grains have been touched by her over the years, her energy lingers in the spin of their atoms still. Each one carries a part of her inside them forever – just as they carry a part of her mother, who touched them before her. Her daughter walks the same paths now and touches those same grains of sand. They are all a part of 3:4’s story. It is a story that continues still, through the lives of her cubs and their cubs. “
One of the cubs that 3:4 left behind was the magnificent Nottens Female. Nottens’ territory is exceptionally large and she extends throughout much of the south and eastern sections of Londolozi, and indeed south of our traversing area too. Much has been written of late about whether she is possibly too old to have any further litters. Numerous times throughout the last two years she has been found mating but with no result. However, even though she may not be able to produce any further cubs she still provides us with wonderful sightings and has done so for many years.
This descendant of the ‘blue royal lineage’ of Leopards at Londolozi is the great grand-daughter of the Mother Leopard – the very first leopard viewed at Londolozi. It is for this reason that she will always have a special place in the hearts of all rangers and trackers who have worked here.
1998 – 2 Cubs – Both females reached independence
2001 – 2 Cubs – Both cubs lost
2002 – 2 Cubs – Both cubs lost
2003 – 2 Cubs – Uncertain if made it to independence
2005 – 2 Cubs – One taken by Martial Eagle
2008 – 2 Cubs – Both Lost
So whilst the life of this queen may be slowly drawing to a close, we are all so excited that her very first cub, born back in 1998, has returned to Londolozi. Known by us as the Piva Female, this leopard is at the prime of her life and appears to be showing a tendancy to carrying on where her mother may well leave. The genes of longevity and survival are deeply embedded in this lineage so until the sad day comes when we no longer see her tracks we will continue to celebrate the long life of the grand old lady…the Nottens Female
Written and photographed by Adam Bannister