This is a blog that could have been written a few months ago. The Nottens female leopard was last seen in November and you would have to be an outrageous optimist to suggest that she is still alive. At 18 years old, Nottens was proverbially as old as the hills, but like her mother the 3:4 female, she graced the green pastures of Londolozi and skipped all the hazards of being a leopard better than just about any other leopard I can remember.
Death is normally a private affair for a leopard. We don’t know where or how she died but she was last seen in poor condition trying to raid a kill from the Camp Pan Male. She was gaunt and in desperate need of a meal but as is the way of the leopard he unceremoniously dumped her out of the tree and after that last attempt I believe she probably went off to die somewhere hidden. It’s a subtle reminder that in the wild it’s a no mercy but no malice affair and her subsequent disappearance is testament to the fact that we are only allowed into their lives for fleeting moments and not all of their significant ones.
Nottens was hard to find and often impossible to follow. Those special moments were privileged and after a morning or evening with her I would often think that we had just taken a ‘proper’ game drive – because to be with Nottens you had to drive far and search intently, often forgoing the opportunity to sit and watch general game in order to keep on her trail.
Her territory was down in the southern reaches of Londolozi but as she grew older and her territory shrank and was then taken, she took to venturing much further North – up to the Mxabene and Tugwaan drainages: places she knew well as a cub in the care of her mother.
Like all of the mother leopard descendants she was big and pale with dark alluring eyes. I enjoyed watching her as a simple reminder of the rich heritage that the mother leopard left us and whilst there are new lineages and families to keep track of, hers was one that most guides at Londolozi have always been in awe of.
She’s missed as much as any of the great cats that have been documented here over four decades. She had success as a young mother and on those great afternoons when we get far enough away from camp there is always the chance of seeing the Piva Female and some of those great Mother Leopard / Tugwaan Female / 3:4 Female / Nottens Female genetics.
Maybe the universe does hold a special place for all of us after death: I sure hope there are marula trees there…
Written by: Tom Imrie
Watch this phenomenal footage of the Nottens female and Camp Pan male mating: