I don’t watch reality television shows. In fact I don’t watch much television at all. But sometimes I wonder if this lack of interest is because I get my fix by watching Londolozi’s leopards every day, which is like our very own version of ‘reality TV’. Because we have spent decades documenting the births, deaths, relationships and interactions between these various leopards on Londolozi, we have intimate understandings of their lives. So when three leopards come together and we know each of their stories and how they fit together, the saga that unfolds is fascinating.
The Xidulu female was mating with the Piva male but the problem was that she was doing this in the middle of the Tamboti female’s territory. This is not unusual for leopards. The female will try to mate with as many males as she can during her oestrus period in the hope that every male who has the chance of coming across her cubs, will think he is the father. The Xidulu female was therefore braving going into another female’s territory in order to protect her potential cubs.
This obviously greatly angered the Tamboti female who spent the afternoon watching the pair from varying distances. She would growl constantly, salivate heavily and sometimes even rush in at the pair. It was clear how agitated she was by this intruder’s presence.
At one point the females actually came face-to-face, both vocalising heavily and salivating but never actually physically engaging. It was in fact the Xidulu female who backed down, throwing herself in front of the Tamboti female in a submissive manner. Despite her much older age and experience, it seems she knew she was in the wrong by chancing into the Tamboti female’s territory and was doing her best to avoid a proper fight.
Despite many of these close encounters throughout the afternoon, the Piva male ended up inadvertently saving the day. He spotted movement in the bush quite a way off that piqued his interest and when he ran off to investigate, the Xidulu female followed close behind as is typical of females during the mating period. This dispelled the tension and left the Tamboti female alone, possibly making her feel that she was the victor of this particular battle and she allowed the pair to disappear.
What is interesting is that the Tamboti female and Xidulu female are sisters, both born to the legendary Sunset Bend 2:2 female but six years apart. Do the females know that they are sisters and despite the Tamboti female’s drive to protect her territory did not engage in a fight because of their relationship? Or did they avoid full physical conflict only because any injury could spell death for either cat? The age gap between them is so large that chances are they are unaware of their genetic connection but of this we will never be sure. One thing we are sure of is that so many leopards together in one place provided for amazing game viewing and fulfilled our weekly fix in the latest episode of ‘Londolozi Leopards Reality TV Show’.
Written and filmed by Amy Attenborough
Photographed by Kevin Power