Death is a part of life. It is a fact that we all know, even though it doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Recently, rangers east of our boundary informed us that they had found the body of the Tu Tones male. It is thus, with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to a leopard who granted us the trust for hours of incredible viewing, wonderful photographic opportunities and a glimpse into the life of a characteristically elusive cat.
The Tu Tones male astounded everyone by establishing his territory within his father Camp Pan's territory.
As a youngster, he was affectionately nicknamed Pinky after his bright pink nose. Tu Tones and his brother, the Makotini male, were born to Maxabeni female in October 2008. I had heard of Tu Tones long before starting to work at Londolozi as he marvelled everyone by establishing his territory within the territory of his father, Camp Pan, which is usually unheard of in the leopard world. What is always fascinating for us rangers is that we watch the stories of these animals’ lives unfold, and as in the case of Tu Tones are exposed to this secret world where we have the opportunity to observe new behaviours daily.
The last few months we sadly watched Tu Tones condition deteriorate. The last time I saw him, he had severe mange and was looking particularly skinny. Although in his prime years, a couple of fights left him worse for wear and he just couldn’t seem to bounce back. We can only speculate as to whether his territory choice aided in his demise as he struggled to overtake and maintain his area once Camp Pan was displaced.
A few rangers have shared some thoughts on this incredible cat. Talley writes about one very memorable encounter with Tu Tones.
“Once when Freddy and I were tracking him on foot he was lying out in the open next to the road and for some reason we just didn’t see him, we didn’t look up at all and paced back and forth along the road looking for the next track and he was just lying there casually spectating from 2m away! Not even trying to hide but most likely enjoying the show of the idiots that couldn’t find him. Then when he knew we’d spotted him, instead of growling, running or charging like a normal leopard would, he fell asleep!” – Talley Smith
Helen Young, a former Londolozi ranger who watched Tu tones grow up, sums things up perfectly as she reflects on the privilege it was to view this leopard:
“We cannot escape our humanity. It is our nature to grieve, be it for the passing of a loved one, or in some very rare cases, a leopard with a wonky eye. Things are simpler in the animal kingdom. Death is necessary; a constant reminder of the natural order of things. The weak make space for the strong, and life continues.
So why, as I type this, am I feeling pangs of sadness for an animal that was simply taking part in a cycle that has no room for compassion? Should I take a leaf out of a wilder book, and simply forget the first time I saw a tiny pink nose poke out from behind a rock, a goofy expression already etched onto a tiny face? Should I forget the years spent watching a leopard grow; a story behind each scar?
Perhaps, but my ‘weak’ human nature, unable to avoid anthropomorphizing, has a different view. I will remember a leopard that brought a smile to my face, every time I saw him. What is more, I will remember the guests and fellow rangers who were granted a similar honour, the thousands of photographs, now scattered across the globe, given places of prominence in family albums full of memories.
By allowing us into his world, he became a custodian of the natural world he lived in, and will continue to do so with each story, passed on through generations reliving happy times. Without uttering a word, with one piercing look from a bright eye, he has changed the hearts and influenced the minds of countless people. What I will remember, is not the death of a friend – this leopard was wild, we were not friends, he would never have stooped to such unnecessary emotions – but the life of a powerful conservationist.” – Helen Young
Any viewers who have had special sightings with Tu Tones and would like to share? Share your message with us in the comments below.
Written by: Andrea Campbell, Talley Smith & Helen Young
Photographed by: James Tyrrell, Simon Smit, Michael Moss, Frank Oldham, Trevor Patrick, David Dampier, Chris Kane-Berman and Andrea Campbell
I am feeling so sad right now. Pinky was such a great leopard and so much part of our lives. We had a great sighting of him and Camp pan together on a Impala kill. He was injured then as well, in a scuffle with Camp Pan over the kill. It was always awesome to hear all the stories, and hoping to catch a glimpse of him. Will always remember him.
Never got the chance too see him but he was a real favourite of mine too follow the life of online like his Father and Brother. I will miss him alot. He went too early. RIP.
In May 2010, we saw Tu Tones, his brother and his mother all resting in a thicket after partially consuming an impala, the remains of which were on the ground in their midst. Suddenly, out of the drainage, appeared a large hyena! Before the 3 knew what happened, the hyena made a quick grab fur the carcass and ran off with it. All 3 leopards stared at the place where their meal had disappeared, amazed it seemed. Then the 2 brothers split right and left and headed into the brush after the culprit. We circled round in time to see a tug of war between Pinky and the hyena, with the leopard grabbing a chunk and quickly heading up a tree! We watched as the hyena made a quick meal of his ilk-gotten gain while Pinky watched from his perch. It was an amazing drama to watch!
what a fabulous leopard…we spent many hours delighted by his company…and entertained by his antics. we first met him when he encountered his dad, Camp Pan ,one dusk and their interaction was respectful, no hissing or snarling. and from that moment on he was a joy to behold and a wonderful leopard to view. he will be deeply missed.
Beautiful tribute and photos Andrea. It is always sad to loose a leopard but it is the cycle of life… Thank you for sharing this.
I was privileged to be one of the first humans to see Pinky in October of 2008. Our guide, Sandros told us to be very quiet and soon out popped this little leopard with huge eyes and a pink nose from the rocks. The den site had just recently been found and we saw Mom come out to go hunting. We couldn’t stay long but it was one of my most memorable moments. RIP Pinky
My heart is breaking. RIP young Prince.
We did not meet TuTones, but this post and these pictures express so much of what we loved about our time at Londolozi. Thank you for them.
Helen, what an eloquent and fitting tribute. The passing of Tu Tones brings tears to my eyes and a heavy heart.
Thank you, everyone, for your memories of Pinky. We saw him in 201o, he was a young one who gave us many clicks on our cameras. Yes, he has his own row on our wall. Sad, but understand the wheel of life. He will be remembered.
R.I.P. Pinky/Tu-Tones/Newington 🙁
I saw Tu-Tones in Sept 2014. He had a scar from a fight next to his right eye. He
It struck me in that he was a magnificent beautiful leopard. I am sad that he is gone.
We are sorry to hear about the death of “our Pinky”. The name he got when he was a tiny cub. We were privileged to see him grow to a magnificent leopard.
For years he gave us the most incredible photographic opportunities because he was such special leopard.
His picture is the eye-catcher of my business card.
In this time of real sadness I found comfort reading the wonderful stories about Tu Tones. Helen’s words are a glowing tribute to this amazing Leopard. It seems like Tu Tones enjoyed watching humans from what Tally wrote. At a drinks stop with Rich Ferrier a few years ago, Colleen and I were facing the Landy coffee in hand and Rich was looking over my shoulder. He said softly… “don’t get a fright, but just turn around slowly”. There 12 metres away lying on the side of the tracks was Tu Tones. He had clearly been there when we arrived but we had not seen him. When we turned around he seemed to realize he was busted and sat up and gave his usual yawn. Then after a few minutes he calmly got up and walked slowly into the bushes.
I am weeping as I write this and cannot see clearly through the tears. A special leopard who we last saw in November 2014 or January 2015, I do not remember which, lying next to the road a bit battered and beaten up and worse for wear. Beautiful leopard. Beautiful memories. Go well Tu Tones.
I did not have the privilege of seeing Tu-Tones, but followed his career from a distance. It is good to hear from people who viewed this fine, big, young leopard. He was gone too soon! It’s also a little sad to realize that Camp Pan outlived this son. RIP Tu-Tones!
One year ago today we left Londolozi after a marvelous week. A part of each of the last three days was spent with Tu Tones and I have hundreds of photos so I never forget what a wonderful privilege it was to share his life. I would post a photo, if I knew how.
I am feeling such sadness. Tu Tones was a beautiful Leopard and he will be greatly missed. Helen put it so beautifully into words and the photos are lovely….thank you for the moving tribute.
What a wonderful Ambassador for his species he was . If only each of us could be as special for ours as he was for his, how much better this place we all call Mother Earth would be.
Goodbye Tu Tones,you will be missed.
I am so sad to hear of one of our beautiful leopards dying.. He was a handsome boy and my favorite photo was of him with his father Camp Pan and the Tamboti female.. Sorry we lost him so young.. Thank you for the wonderful tribute.. He has created many wonderful memories.
Wonderful memories of Tu Tones, who graciously shared his life and world with us for a memorable hour last September, bloodied with the scars of overnight battle (Photo on my blog:http://blog.londolozi.com/2014/11/beyond-the-big-5-our-londolozi-experience/) with a deep bleeding laceration on his forehead. Ranger Tom felt he wouldn’t live too much longer and he was right. Saddened that we will never meet this great warrior again
The first Leopard we met during our visit in February 2014. Easily my most vivid memory of our five days at Londolozi. A wonderful fellow.
So moving – we had the privilege of seeing Tu Tones in March this year. He walked within a few metres of the vehicle and lay down next to us. He was magnificent (the first big cat we’d seen) despite a lot of ticks, a cut on his leg and being a little underweight. After a while, he slowly walked off down a track but just before he disappeared he turned and seemed to look directly at us before plodding away into the bush. At the time, we all felt like he was saying goodbye to us – which feels so much more profound and heartbreaking now.
What a beautiful tribute to a magnificent Male Leopard. May he RIP knowing that he has left behind his legacy to continue as young blood into the future! Thank you Londolozi guys & guests for all the stunning pictures you have posted of him for us bloggers to enjoy 🙂 <3
My favorite leopard during my time at Londolozi , Tu Tones aka Masha Pinky will be remembered always etched in our memories, our stories and our many photographs. RIP my friend.
Thank you for the beautiful eulogy for a wonderful spirited brave Leopard. Such a fine dynasty such a fine legacy. We will miss you Pinky . Toby and Jess
I had the honor of seeing “Pinky” in 2011 with my mother and son, our ranger Daniel and tracker Like. My mother was so excited to see him again after seeing him in 2008n as a tiny cub with Leslie B. (she posted earlier) The three girls giggled about the pink nose. Daniel kept referring to him as his name on the chart, but we kept calling him Pinky. Daniel told us that the rangers and trackers never “name” the animals, but we couldn’t help it. I think we might have seen him twice on that trip.
He had a long and fruitful life. May Pinky forever run the open plains of heaven above. Rest in Peace.
What a profound tribute by Helen Young. Struck a chord. Tu Tone. Gone but not forgotten. RIP Great Spotted One.
We searched for leopard on many a safari — until we arrived at Londolozi for Christmas 2008, Ranger Tom Emri and excellent tracker Meshak took us on a splendid adventure, with sightings of 8 leopards. We may also have seen Tu-Tone among them, but each magnificent animal photo continues to bring admiration and joy at having observed them. We are sadden to hear of Tu-Tone’s passing. Thank you for sharing the excellent testimony to a remarkable animal and its legacy.
so sorry that he lost he precious life so early in his prime
Thank you everyone for sharing. It is truly incredible to see what an impact he had on peoples lives all around the world. What a very special leopard!