In April this year Mike Sutherland wrote a post that examined the lives of the young leopards of Londolozi.
I thought it would be interesting if, 7 months later, we had another look at things to see where they all are now.
The Tutlwa Young Female:
Now renamed the Nhlanguleni female (“Nhlanguleni” being the Shangaan name for the Gwarrie tree), this young leopard is certainly growing up! Having been seen mating on a few occasions, it may not be long before we see her bearing her first litter. The territory over which she holds sway is strewn with big boulder clumps and criss-crossed by deep drainage lines; perfect den-sites in which to secrete young cubs. Although seen irregularly, I have a sneaking suspicion she will be rising to prominence within the next year.
The Mashaba Young Female:
Beautiful (although I suppose this a redundant term when talking about these big cats) and energetic, this leopard is one of my absolute favourites. I was incredibly fortunate to see her as a newborn at the tender age of three or four days, still blind and being carefully concealed by her mother in a Spikethorn thicket in the Sand River. Although we never know quite where she is going to pop up next, she tends to focus her movements around Winnis’ Clearing and the marula-dotted hillsides to the east of camp, bordering her mother’s territory. A hunter of repute, she has been seen with kills in trees far larger than we would have thought her capable of hoisting, and as far as young females go, she definitely punches above her weight category. She loves spending time in the tree-tops, and with the advent of the long grass of summer and the newborn impalas, we will most likely be seeing a lot of her in the next few months, with hoisted kills in marula trees.
The Ximpalapala Young Female:
The most enigmatic of these young leopards, the Ximpalapala young female is probably the least seen, even though her territory lies right in the centre of Londolozi. She is still young (we think born in early 2012) but has been seen mating with at least two different males in the last while, the most notable of these being the new and slightly skittish short-tailed male. Mike mentioned in his April post that her territory has been hard to put an exact fix on as she tends to turn up in random places. Since then she seems to has settled on the mid-western sections of Londolozi, but further movement is certainly not out of the question. She is currently occupying the western and northern edges of what was once the Nottens female’s territory.
The Tamboti Young Female
Still very much tolerated in her mother’s territory, the Tamboti Young female is one of the more frequently seen of these young females. Operating mainly around the Maxabene, she follows in the footsteps of many of the great females of the past, notably the Mother Leopard and the Maxabene female.
This area is rife with bushbuck and nyala, and these have formed staples in her diet for the past few months, but with impala lambing season in full swing, she is most likely making the most of this bounty for the time being. We don’t know where she will eventually end up settling as a territorial female, as the space is quickly being filled up by the other females mentioned here.
The Dudley Riverbank Young Female
Also not often seen, but understandably so, owing to her territory being on the far end of the property from the Londolozi camps. A lack of sightings earlier in the year probably made it prudent to exclude her from the April post, but with her growing stature and the fact that she has been seen more and more in recent months, we felt she was worthy of inclusion come year end.
It has been a confusing couple of months when it comes to identifying leopards on Londolozi, as with all the young females running about the place, most of them non-territorial, we have to make doubly sure when calling in a positive ID. The furthest afield we have found a female leopard from her usual haunts in recent months was almost certainly the DRB Young female a few weeks ago when she was seen hanging around near Pioneer camp for a few days, before returning back to the deep south. As well as being far away, her territory is blanketed with thickets, making tracking her a true test of perseverance and skill for any tracker/ranger team that makes it their mission for that game drive. We recently had front-row seats to a perfectly executed stalk, chase and kill by her when she brought down a small bushbuck not more than 30 metres from our vehicle.
She is still too young to mate, but with her mother being aged and non-territorial these days, the only real pressure will come from the Tamboti female to the north, but since the Tamboti female already has a large territory, it is possible that the DRB Young female will continue to persevere in the Dudley Riverbank area
The Vomba Young Male
The last confirmed sighting of the Vomba young male was months ago. He was seen along Londolozi’s eastern boundary more and more towards the end, and it is fair to assume that by now, at an age of almost 3 years, he has finally been pushed out of his father’s (the Marthly male) territory. Either that, or he has met his fate at the hands of another predator, but the bottom line is that we sadly do not expect to see him again.
The Nanga Young Male
Abandoned by his mother at an early age (11 months), the Nanga young male has done exceptionally well to take care of himself, hunting and surviving when other males of his age are still heavily dependant on their mothers for food and protection. He hasn’t moved much in the last while, at least since Mike’s update in April, and still frequents the area to the east and south of Nanga Pan. His safety net has almost certainly been his father the Gowrie male, who is firmly in control of that region of the reserve, and the Nanga young male can hopefully look forward to another 6 months at least of tolerance, considering he is not yet 2 years old.
Leopards come and go, and I remember my early days here when the Vomba female, Vomba young female (now Mashaba), Maxabene female, Maxabene young males (now Tu-Tones and Makhotini males) and Nyelethi female were the names everyone talked about. They have either died or moved off to become territorial elsewhere, changing their names in the process.
Where will the new youth of the Leopards of Londolozi fit in in the greater scheme of things…?
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell