I recently wrote a post that delved deep into the life of a young male Leopard and the hardships these young animals face on a daily basis. One of my subjects was the Vomba young male. In that blog I spoke of their nomadic lifestyles as they grow through adolescence, the conflicts they face and the roads to becoming a dominant male in a prime territory. We have watched this young male grow this past year and suffer many losses, The most important and significant one was the loss of his mother, the Vomba female mid way through 2013. Now it is his time to battle through the wilds this great place has to offer.
After being conceived by his mother, the Vomba female after much courting by the Marthly male, this young male was born in June 2012 in a small, well hidden den site directly in front of Pioneer camp, in the Wild Date Palms that line the Sand River. it is believed that he was the only cub in this litter and it would turn out to be his mothers last litter she produced. He spent much time in the river growing up, in and amoungst the camps and the pathways that we frequent each day. The second den site occupied by this little cub, was in a small tributary of the Sand River between Pioneer and Founders camps. Here is a video filmed by Rich Laburn, only a few weeks after this cub was born. This was the second ever sighting of this leopard.
The earliest pictures snapped of this ball of fluff was by General Manager, Stoff Kane-Berman in September 2012, at the tender age of 3 months. I still vividly remember when I first arrived on Londolozi, the frustration that oozed out of the Rangers room when this cub was mentioned. He was an exteremely shy young Leopard who had not spent much time around vehicles growing up. However, from roughly April 2013, he became completely relaxed with vehicles and began to offer quality game viewing.
He grew up in the central region of Londolozi within his Mothers territory, which encompassed the area around the camps, which you can see in the image below. Spending time in the drainage lines, the river and dense Guarri thickets. This was a superb ploy by this mother to keep him safe as a young Leopard, and it has been successful. Being fathered by one of the most dominant and successful male Leopards currently on Londolozi has been a true blessing for this young male. His father, the Marthly Male has managed to secure a large portion of land on central Sparta and Marthly, encompassing the Sand river thats meanders through the reserve. This is vital in success for a Leopard here, and time and time again the river produces.
The Vomba young male has a 3:3 spot pattern, which is easily identified with 2 spots very closely spaced on this left cheek. His golden coat is also a tribute to the genetic line he falls into. His mother, the Vomba female (December 1997-August 2013), was daughter to one of the original female Leopards on Londolozi, the Sunset Bend female (March 1992-April 2010). The Sunset Bend female was notorius for her golden, warm coat that she has passed down through generations of Leopards here on Londolozi.
The Vomba Young Male has always been an energetic and active leopard, with a propensity for interaction and engagement with his mother. She soon grew frustrated with his presence and by mid July 2013, their relationship was over. A 13month old young male had been left by his mother to fend for himself. It was a shock to us all, however, what we didn’t know then was that his mother had somehow disappeared. She vanished into the clouds and has not been seen since.
Over the past 6 months, his movements and appearances have been fragmented. He is elusive and he is exploring. Below you will see a rough outline of some of the sightings of hime lately.
For a young male Leopard it is a tough show out there. It is a brutal way to learn about life and a struggle to prosper and succeed. With many threats in other male Leopards, the Marthly Male, Camp Pan, Gowrie Male, Tu Tones Male as well as a few nomadic males we encounter, it will be interesting to see whether this male will vanish into the beauty that is the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park or will he continue his legacy here with us. I’m sure the time will come when he will wander far and never return, and when he does, we wish him the best. If you encounter an unknown young male on another reserve in the next few years, have a quick read through this and check if it might be him.
Have you had any sightings or experiences of the the Vomba Young Male and, for those who have not visited Londolozi recently, the Vomba Female that stand out in your memory? Let us know in the comments section below…
Written by: Mike Sutherland
Photographed by: Mike Sutherland, Rich Laburn and Stoff Kane-Berman.