Since my arrival on Londolozi in January this year, I have had this constant urge to view and photograph the 2 young daughters of the Ximpalapala female. On my arrival they were both younger than a year in age, and had recently lost a sister, in an unknown event. However, they settled into the northern reaches of Marthly, and unlike their mother, had grown accustomed to the presence of vehicles. These 2 young females became a focal point to any Ranger and guests experience when travelling North across the Sand River.
During my first few weeks here I had to deal with the stories of these two incredible little Leopards. They way they allowed Rangers and guests alike to experience and indulge in their lifestyles. The way the moved in front of the cameras like models and the purity and innocence of their being. I was mesmerised by each tale and dreamt of the day I would experience the same. Finally my day arrived and I managed to capture some of the beauty these Leopards possess.
Fathered by the Marthly male, who controlled a vast section of the northern part of Londolozi, these cubs were in a relatively safe area and territory, without pressure from other males, but only Hyena and Lions. But as time progresses things change, territories shift and new males push for land and females to spread their own genetic line. This is what we have witnessed in the past few months with the Marthly male moving further south across the river and in competition with the Camp Pan male in the central parts of the reserve. This has left a large area further North, that is seldom occupied by this male and as it so happens, new males have made their move. Pushing from the Northern boundary southwards, encroaching onto Marthly and into the heart of the Ximpalapala females territory.
The presence of unknown males on Londolozi is always an exciting thing, however, for Leopard cubs that are still heavily relient on their mother, it can be a great problem as the new males will look to mate with these females in their “newly won” territory. In order to mate, the female needs to have no responsibility in the form of cubs and for this to be possible the new male will either kill the existing cubs or chase them away. And this is where we currently stand. Both Ximpalapala young females have disappeared, and have not been seen in at least 2 months. The Gowrie 2:2 Male has pushed south and west and was seen a few days ago, mating with a very unrelaxed female Leopard. Ximpalapala female? We shall see in the near future.
Are the Ximpalapala sisters still alive and in hiding? Have they moved west? Or, have they both been killed by a new. more dominant male? This is still a grey area for us all. However, we hope they are alive and healthy and we all look forward to possibly photographing them again.
She was born to the Short Tailed female in 2002 in the same litter as the Tugwaan male.
Written and Photographed by: Mike Sutherland