The Tutlwa female has for many years been considered one of the great leopard beauties to frequent Londolozi. A relaxed yet secretive female, she is mostly found in the Sand River and into the northern reaches of the property.
We tend to see less of the Tutlwa female leopard in the winter months. This is due to the habitat found within her territory. Most of her territory is made up of large rolling crests that are open with the exception of impressive marula trees, very little thick cover and few places to remain concealed in true leopard fashion. In the dry winter months with less grass cover than normal this makes hunting and even moving on these exposed areas difficult. For cover she is then forced into the deep drainage systems that flow into the Sand River, bushbuck and nyala abound in these overgrown low lying areas and she darts onto the more open areas and catches the odd impala. There were a few exceptions this winter but now that the rains have returned and the grass is recovering quickly I assume we should see a little more of her.
Over the dry, bare winter months that make up the middle of the year she had been seen on a handful of occasions – mostly with the Gowrie male. The two leopards were seen mating over a few days and provided some amazing viewing. We remain hopeful for a new litter to arrive soon and the possibility of leopard cubs excites the whole team. The young male from her previous litter is still being seen with his mother although it is infrequent and he is fast approaching independence. This will free the Tutlwa female up to once again raise another litter.
As the grass increases in length and the amount of cover improves (we had a fire in the north) we will keep an eye open in the hope of finding and following this incredible female. The long grass that helps to conceal can also be a slight hindrance and has forced a behaviour not often witnessed. To see above the grass she has learnt to squat on her hind legs peering over the grass to be able to get a better look at her prey. This is a behaviour I have longed to see and I hope during summer I will have my chance!
Written and photographed by Simon Smit