Two weeks ago we ran a post that looked at the possibility of the Mashaba female finally forcing her cub into independence. The reasons we cited were that she had left the cub for almost a week to fend for itself while she (the Mashaba female) had been seen mating with the 4:4 male. Together these were not definite signs that the cub had been pushed out, and in fact only a few days after the post ran the pair were found together on an impala carcass not too far from camp.
After that sighting (21st July), there has been only one sighting of the two leopards together on another kill, in which they were robbed by two young lionesses from the Mhangeni pride.
Recently the Mashaba female was found hunting near the Vomba Drainage, her mother’s namesake, and the next morning she was found on an impala kill over two kilometres to the southwest. Her cub was not at the kill, even though the majority of the carcass had been devoured.
The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best-known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the vehicles.
Initially we thought that this was a good indicator that the Mashaba female had finally pushed her daughter into independence. A fully grown impala takes a couple of days to be consumed by a single leopard, and there would have been ample time in which to have gone and fetched the cub, yet no cub was on site.
It was only when we started working out the timing of events that we realised the Mashaba female was actually probably not the one who made the kill. Having seen the state of the carcass, it’s easy to conclude that it was not a fresh kill; most of it had been eaten and a lot of the meat looked quite dry. If the Mashaba female had made it, surely she wouldn’t have been so far away the evening before? Leopards will often leave a kill to go to water, but there were certainly closer water sources to the kill site, especially after the 12.5mm of rain we had the other night, which left a number of puddles in the area.
So who made the kill then?
It is highly unlikely that a female leopard would ever steal a kill from a dominant male, so we can rule out the Inyathini and 4:4 males, both of whom have been seen patrolling that section of the reserve. Wild dogs are always a possibility, although unlikely; dogs will chase leopards when they encounter them, but a hungry leopard could possibly take an opportunity to snatch a bit of carcass from a wild dog pack if there was a convenient tree nearby in which to hoist it.
A far more likely scenario is that the Mashaba female stole the carcass from another female leopard. The Mashaba female is big as females go, having inherited her genes from the Camp Pan male, her father. Some of the trackers reported having seen female leopard tracks in the area from about two days before, which were most likely of the leopard which took down the impala. Exactly which leopard it was we are not sure, as that section of Londolozi is a bit of a grey area as far as female leopards go. The Nhlanguleni female hasn’t been seen that far south and east before, the Tatowa female generally stays further south, and we’ve almost certainly ruled the Mashaba female out entirely as the initial impala killer.
Initially skittish she spent a lot of time in the Sand River, now relaxed she makes up the majority of leopard viewing west of camp.
The Tatowa female was one of a litter of three females born in early 2012 to the Ximpalapala female of the north.
My guess is that it was the Tamboti Young Female, who still pops up in funny places as she’s yet to properly establish a territory.
This leopard is the only cub the Tamboti female has so far raised to independence.
We’ll probably never know though, and I guess some mysteries are better left unsolved.