Mike Sutherland ran a post a few months ago about the disappearance of the Ximpalapala leopard cubs. Since then one of the young females has been seen once more on Londolozi. What is interesting is the way in which her reactions to the vehicles changed during the months she was not being viewed. Before the disappearance of her and her sister (who has not been seen again, and is presumed dead), both young leopards were incredibly relaxed around the Land Rovers, yet when the 3:3 young female was seen again after a few months she was skittish, reacting nervously to the appearance of a vehicle. We think she may have been spending time in the property to the west of us, where vehicle movement is limited. Coming back to the Ximpalapala crests of her upbringing, we have had to revert to a slightly different approach when viewing her, and watch more from a distance until she relaxes with the presence of the Land Rovers.
This little leopard has been turning up in the most unusual places across the property, using her new-found independence to wander far from her mother’s – and indeed her father’s – territory. Previously only ever seen north of the river, she has been found way down in the southern areas of Londolozi on a number of occasions. Not only that, but she has been proving to be an extraordinarily accomplished huntress as well. She has been found on the hoisted kills of fully grown impala males as well as young kudu! Although leopards do regularly take on herbivores of that size, it is unusual to see such a young female doing it and being successful at it as well. Hoisting carcasses that probably weigh almost double her mass is an incredible feat of strength.
Two days ago she was once again found on the Ximpalapala crests, this time on the hoisted remains of an impala lamb. Cuts on her back leg and a serious – yet healing – gash on her neck told of an encounter with a rival predator, most likely another leopard. Had a hyena or lion got hold of her she would have been very lucky to have come out of the encounter alive. Quite possibly her meanderings through foreign territory to the south brought her into contact with a territorial female, and a violent encounter has pushed her back to an area she knows well where the territorial female (her mother) although hostile, would not likely be overly aggressive.
Summer means a surplus of food for predator and prey alike, and the marula crests along which we saw her and her sisters so often last summer, and where there are going to be literally hundreds of impala lambs being raised, could well be where we once more find her in the forthcoming months.
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell