A couple of days ago we broke the worrying news that the last confirmed sighting of the Maxabeni Female was in the end of October 2012! We, as a guiding team, are starting to accept the harsh reality of this fact! I thought that I would put together a short piece documenting the history of this legendary leopardess. She has been such a constant at Londolozi and has worked her way into the hearts and minds of many a ranger, tracker and guest. Her small footprints have not been seen anywhere of late, and it hurts to no longer hear her name called in on the radio. Her old hunting grounds have been taken over by a younger, unrelated female. A bad sign in itself. We do, however, still cling to hope that she will surprise us one day and just arrive out of the blue.
History in brief
When Maxabeni female was just less than a year old, she and her mother were treed by hyenas. In the pandemonium and confusion the subadult female was left alone in the tree. Abandoned, the young leopard remained in the tree for almost 2 weeks awaiting the return of her mother. As she grew thinner and thinner, the inevitable tragedy seemed to be rapidly approaching. The tenacious young leopard had not given up though, and began hunting squirrels which provided her with the energy to extend her life day by day.
By the age of 12 and a half months, she killed her first impala, and never looked back. From those humble beginnings the tenacious female took over the territory of the valued central Maxabeni river in Londolozi.
Date of Birth: January 1998
Mother: Mangeni Female
She has had at least 17 cubs (9 litters) in her lifetime. Only 4 of these animals, have made it to independence. Three males and a female. The female died of mange shortly after becoming independant.
2001 – 1 Cub – Presumed drowned
2002 – 2 Cubs – Male killed at 2 months, Female allegedly died of mange in Savanna
2004 – 2 Cubs – Both died off Strip Road
2005 – 2 Cubs – Killed by Manyeleti Male Leopard and Sparta Lion Pride at JV’s Donga
2006 – 2 Cubs – One killed. Maxabeni 3:3 Male reached independence
2007 – 3 Cubs – One killed by Vomba Young Male. The other two were killed in the Sand River at Renias’ Corner
2007 – 2 Cubs – Both killed off Circuit South
2008 – 2 Cubs – Maxabeni 3:2 and 3:3 Young Males
2012 – 1 Cub – Presumed dead. Denned off Three-streaked Donga
Maxabeni 3:3 Male
It took Maxabeni Female five litters before she managed to have success. This male was from a litter of two. This male dispered and moved south and east into the southern regions of our neighbouring reserve. The last we heard he was still doing strong. Heavy competition from an abundance of up and coming males in that area may mean that he may have to move even further east as time goes.
In late 2008 she had a litter of two males. These two young leopards have provided some of the most phenomenal leopard sightings over the last four years. Potentially fathered by different males (Camp Pan and Tugwaan Male) these two have expressed very different personalities from cub-hood through to maturity. Their passages through life could not have been more different! The fact that they are both alive is testimony to the excellent mother that the Maxabeni Female was. If you have visited Londolozi during this period, then there is a high possibility that you have had an encounter with either of these two gorgeous cats:
Maxabeni 3:3 Young Male
Maxabeni 3:2 Young Male
As the long summer days blend into each other, so we may just have to call it a day for this magnificent leopard. A true free spirit. A true symbol of conservation and the perfect example of how wildlife can be coupled with tourism, conservation and nature appreciation. Walls of houses are decorated with pictures of her and numerous diaries have her name scribbled forever in ink. She may well have passed from this life into the next…her story, energy and memories however, will continue to live on forever. Campside stories of the Maxabeni Female will be told for years to come. She was the perfect Leopard of Londolozi. She was magnificent and she will be missed!
Written by Adam Bannister