The Tamboti female leopard can be an enigma at times. With probably the largest territory of any female at Londolozi, she can be tricky to track down, and will occasionally go on a 2-week hiatus, falling off the radar entirely before popping up again unexpectedly.
Born on Londolozi to the Sunset-Bend female, she inherited her mother’s rich golden coat, but moved off our property before too long, setting up territory east of us during her early years. Slowly moving back west in 2011, she put more and more pressure on the dominant yet ageing females of the time, the Maxabene and Dudley Riverbank females, until the Maxabene female disappeared, presumed dead, in late 2012 and the Dudley Riverbank female conceded, giving up her territory to the younger, stronger Tamboti female.
Now the Tamboti female’s territory stretches from north-east Sparta right down to the Dudley Riverbank area, through dense thicketed areas and along many a dry watercourse. Some of the most perfect leopard territory in the world.
Optimal territory comes at a price however, and in this case, that price is competition. Not only amongst the females in the area, but amongst the males too, who vie for dominance, attempting to secure prime territory and the mating rights to females.
It has been well documented that male leopards will kill cubs that are not their own. They do this to bring the female back into oestrus, and they also do not want her cubs, if male, growing up to become potential future rivals for them.
In order to somewhat alleviate this threat to their offspring, female leopards will mate with a number of males in the area in order to confuse the paternity. Once the cubs are born, the males will all believe that they are the fathers, having mated with the females. We have seen this occur a number of times with success on Londolozi. As long as the males believe they are the fathers, the real paternity does not matter too much if they display no aggression towards the cubs.
The Tamboti female has been displaying this exact behaviour recently, having mated with no less than four dominant males over the course of the last couple of months.
The unorthodox duo of the Camp Pan and Tu-Tones males has of course been at the forefront of these mating bouts, but more recently, the Marthly male and new Piva Young male have been sought out and mated with by the Tamboti female. The map below illustrates her territory and where these mating bouts have been witnessed.
With her first cub, the Tamboti young female, operating independently now and fully able to fend for herself, it is time for the Tamboti female to have a new litter. No real signs of pregnancy have been observed, despite some mating attempts taking place well over three months ago (leopard gestation is only about 100 days), but hopefully, should she fall pregnant soon, the question of who the real father is will be suitably foggy for all the dominant males in the area to leave the cubs well alone.
Rogue males are of course always a danger, and despite no real records existing of female leopards exhibiting infanticide, we have substantial observational evidence to suggest that the Tutlwa female killed the Nanga female’s recent litter.
Other leopards are of course not the only danger in the 6 million acre wilderness in which the Tamboti female has made her home. Countless other threats to little cubs exist, including lions, hyenas and pythons, to name a few.
With the Piva young male looking to move in and establish himself, there are turbulent times ahead for the male population. This could impact the Tamboti female’s ability to raise cubs, but should things settle down and stability reign, she would have a much better chance of success…
Here’s holding thumbs…
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell