Back in mid-2012, the Dudley Riverbank female gave birth to a single cub at a place called Paul’s Crossing in the Tugwaan drainage line. The area is thickly covered with bushwillow and acacia thickets, and prior to the birth of what was to be her last cub, the Dudley Riverbank female seemed destined to fate into relative obscurity. After the den-site was discovered, she enjoyed over a year of incredible prestige, as for awhile she was the only leopardess on the property with a cub, and on every drive rangers and trackers would take their guests into the area to look for the pair.
Sadly we believe the Dudley Riverbank female to have succumbed to old age somewhere in the wilderness, as no one has seen her for months now, and she was looking very frail the last time she was seen. Thankfully however, the very same cub that she was so successful in raising through 2012 and 2013 now seems destined to fill her mother’s shoes. Occupying an almost identical territory to her late mother, the recently named Ndzanzeni female (formerly Dudley Riverbank young female) is believed to be denning a newborn litter somewhere in the south-central areas of Londolozi. The Ndzanzeni female is of ‘royal’ blood, being a fifth generation descendant of the original mother leopard, making her cubs (should they survive) sixth generation offspring. An incredible testament to the success of the Leopards of Londolozi.
She was seen heavily pregnant by ranger Garrett Fitzpatrick and tracker Life Sibuyi on the 16th December last year, but it wasn’t until yesterday morning that she was seen again by Nick Sims and Bennet Mathonsi. Nick reported that matted fur around her teats indicated that she had been nursing cubs. Nick and Bennet followed her for awhile, but she eventually moved through a thicketed area where they could not follow with the vehicle.
This will be the first litter the female has birthed. She is not yet four years old, but it is usually from the age of around three and a half that females start mating, and there have been cases in which females have given birth at under three years of age!
Needless to say, it is wildly exciting news! A first litter from a newly named female? A great story to follow up on. Traditionally at Londolozi we will name mature leopards after the territories they occupy for ease of identification, and for reasons of consitency we were about to name the DRB young female the “Ndzanza” female. Ndzanza is the local word for the tsessebe antelope, and is a road in the area where we often see the leopard. When debating the name, ranger Melvin Sambo suggested a slight variation, Ndzanzeni, the best translation of which means an incredibly beautiful yet almost unreachable place. The beauty of leopards and their secretive nature tied in closely with that name, so it stuck.
But I digress. We will be monitoring the area closely for any signs of the female returning to a den. On the map below are marked two prominent drainage lines that run through the Ndzanzeni female’s territory; the Tugwaan (red) and the Mad Elephant drainage (purple), both of which she herself was kept in as a young cub at various stages. Both drainage lines offer a number of fantastic dens-sites in the form of boulder clusters and tangled root systems.
Hopefully within a few weeks we will be able to report the discovery of a litter, but we’ll have to wait and see…