Recently, Nick Kleer, wrote about his love affair with the Mashaba female leopard and in a similar way, I too have a favourite leopard. Of course, they are all magnificent creatures and we rejoice in seeing every single one of them but this particular leopard holds a special place in my heart.
She is an incredibly beautiful leopard and one of the smallest adult females I have ever seen; yet despite her tiny frame, she manages the most remarkable physical feats. To have watched first-hand what it is that she is capable of has given me an incredible amount of respect for this animal. The leopard that I’m referring to is the Nanga female.
Recently we haven’t been seeing her regularly at all and it leaves one to wonder where exactly she has gone and what it is that she is getting up to? The last time she was seen was about a month ago around Mahlahla Dam, near the middle eastern portion of her territory but prior to and since then she has been scarce. One of the reasons for this is that her territory does fall into an area with fewer roads than elsewhere on Londolozi, which can make her harder to find as there is less chance of seeing her tracks. Due to the very dry nature of our summer season, she is also likely to be hunting and moving along the Manyaleti River or some of the denser drainage lines where she has better cover and more opportunities to find prey. This also makes it easier for us to miss her.
Another possibility is that her territory is shifting and she could possibly be spending more time extending her territory to the north of us and deeper into the northern portions of the Sabi Sands. We have not had any reports of her from our neighbours nor seen signs of new females in the area that could be putting pressure on her. However, there is always a chance that another leopard is calling to the east or that there are subtle influences we are just not aware of.
As many of you will remember, she also had a young, blue-eyed cub that she lost mid way through 2015 and so she is physically more than ready to attempt to raise another litter. In fact, one of the last times I saw her she was as far down south as the Maxabene drainage line, which is very far out of her territory and she was doing this specifically to mate with the 4:4 male. This males’ territory is large and does extend into the north where she would raise the cubs and so it is important that she mates with him to ensure their future safety. This is risky business for females because as they leave their territory to seek out various males, they wander into the territories of other females. In fact, it was documented that the very last time the Maxabene female was seen back in 2012, she was very far out of her territory mating with the Marthly male north of the Sand River. Although this leopard was very old at the time and one can never be sure what actually happened to her, there is always the question of whether or not she came across another territorial female like Tutlwa or Vomba and this resulted in her demise.
For now, we don’t have the answers to many of these questions but I think this allure is another reason why I am so drawn to this leopard. She has done this many times before; disappeared, reappeared and left us with many question marks. She is the epitome of the elusive and resilient nature of leopards and I wait with eager anticipation to see what she does next.