“Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional”- Unkown
Living at Londolozi and exploring its wilderness every day allows you the opportunity to witness the intimate details of animals lives, including the moments that are not always easy to see. However watching some of these stories unfold recently, I have found that the incredible gift is observing how effortlessly these animals seem to take shortcomings or obstacles in their stride. For me there is no animal that demonstrates this ability to adapt in order to survive quite like the leopard.
On my way back from dropping my guests off at the airstrip recently, I rounded the corner near Varty Camp and came across the Camp Pan male who- much to my amazement- was completely black and covered in mud from his stomach down; his drenched tail and legs looking far to skinny for his body. What was even more amazing was that he had a big water monitor writhing in his mouth. There had been much speculation about his whereabouts and about his condition, and everyone was concerned that he was malnourished and thin, and that due to his dwindling strength he was no longer going to be able to catch himself a decent meal. Seeing him wet and muddy and recently successful from his fishing escapades made me smile because it reminded me just how incredibly adaptable and resilient these animals really are. I have seen leopards eating things as varied as fish, birds, chameleons and tortoises, and Camp Pan proved that even if we weren’t seeing him catching the big prey species of his yesteryears, he was still capable of making a plan.
The same can be said for the Marthly male who, despite his age and condition, keeps managing to bounce back. About two months ago I watched him with concern as he gingerly walked to a water hole to quench his thirst. Despite having had a kill and a full stomach he was very thin around the hips and was not moving with ease. But to my amazement, we found him just a few days ago look much sturdier and was even attempting to steal an impala carcass from the much stronger Gowrie male. This sort of scavenging behavior becomes much more common as leopards age, but I was amazed that he would even consider taking on this particular opponent.
This drive to survive is not limited to male leopards. Being privileged enough to spend time with the Nanga female and her young cub has also been incredibly enlightening with regards to the lengths that females go in order to raise successors. Especially when the cubs are of a very young age, the female tends to spend time at the den site during the night when other bigger predators are more active and the cubs are more at risk. This means that she has to resort to hunting during the daylight hours when she is more easily spotted by prey and she uses up more energy moving about in the heat. Then, when she does return to the den, her work is not yet complete and she is required to clean, play with and suckle the youngsters.
Even the Tutlwa female who lost her cubs recently has been seen mating with the 4:4 male and with the Gowrie male. Mating with multiple males is an incredibly important thing for her to do and she will quite often go well out of her territory and seek out various males to ensure that if any of these males come across her cubs while she is raising them, they will think they are the father. This sort of effort is paramount for the survival of both her and her cubs. What also amazed me was that despite the apparent stress she showed over a two day period after she lost the cubs, this leopard has accepted the reality of her situation and is bouncing back from it, attempting to raise another litter so that she will have a progeny to succeed her long after she is gone.
If we take cognisance, there is incredible wisdom in nature. There is a simplicity with which animals handle set backs and in their ease of being I have found that they remind us of inherent truths with which we have forgotten. They accept things just as they are, which is ultimately what survival is all about. These animals cannot afford to be distracted by egos and drama, they just live. Just by being around them, it is quite remarkable how the leopards of Londolozi can teach you about the mastery of survival and life.