There is a leopard that we infrequently see on Londolozi, who we don’t often speak of but who in my opinion commands a great deal of respect. At 15 years old and living in an area with arguably the highest density of predators in the Sabi Sands, she is not only successfully fending for herself but raising young cubs too.
The leopard I refer to is the Xidulu female who holds territory in the north and eastern portions of Londolozi and spends a majority of her time to the east of Londolozi’s borders. Recently though she killed a male impala on Londolozi and bought her cubs to feed on it, allowing us the opportunity to see her two young cubs for the very first time. As we sat watching her a few mornings ago a male lion began to bellow out his territorial call from about 300m to their west, two spotted hyenas skulked around the base of the tree where the kill was stashed, elephants fed on a Spikethorn thicket in view of the leopards and a ranger called in the location of the Tsalala Pride in the river no more than a kilometre away. Just a year ago I watched the Marthly and Camp Pan male leopards have near misses with the Tsalala Pride close to where these leopards frequent, a few hundred meters north of the sighting, the Tsalala Pride recently attacked and killed the Dudley Riverbank 5:5 male leopard and the Matimba coalition continuously patrol through this area. With the Tsalala Pride having split (sandwiching this leopard between their two territories) and the drought forcing more and more predators towards the river, it is completely astounding that this old leopard manages to keep herself alive let alone raise two young cubs where she does.
The daughter of Sunsetbend female, is named Xidulu which means termite mound in Shangaan.
In fact, a few of us returned at lunch time that same day to see if anything new had transpired and the startling thing we found only helped to prove how much competition there really is around the river at the moment. In the Jackalberry tree where the impala had been stashed earlier, the Nkoveni female leopard now sat, hissing and snarling from the very tops of its branches. The Xidulu female leopard was now at the base of the tree with the kill along with one of her cubs. She was much more aggressive towards the intruder, growling and snapping intermittently. No one was at the sighting to see what happened when the Nkoveni female leopard arrived but we can only assume that she, being young and reckless, had come in to investigate and possibly try to steal the kill. One of the leopards must have knocked the kill from the branches and now the young female leopard was up in the tree with no exit strategy. Remember that despite the Xidulu female defending both her kill and her cubs, she will do everything in her power to intimidate the Nkoveni female without actually launching up the tree and risking injury, whilst the Nkoveni female couldn’t descend the tree without putting herself in an incredibly vulnerable position. The result being about a 5 hour standoff.
Amazingly enough at one point, one of the inquisitive cubs actually ascended the tree to investigate the Nkoveni female, a brave and possibly quite stupid move but a few hisses and snaps from the older leopard sent the youngster scuttling for the protection of its mother. What eventually dissipated the tension was when a hyena rushed in and tried to grab the impala carcass stashed at the base of the tree. It managed to snap up a leg whilst the Xidulu female leopard grabbed the main portion and sprinted off with it to hide it elsewhere. This created enough of a distraction to give the Nkoveni female some time to descend the tree and vacate the area.
Amazingly enough, just a couple of days later, these two females were once again seen together in the same sighting, this time squabbling over a bushbuck carcass. One would think that after their previous interaction, the Nkoveni female would have learnt her lesson. However it does seem that maybe she has gained a new respect for this older female and was seen yesterday morning leaving the family to finish the bushbuck kill, whilst she headed northwards into the river.
We cannot be one hundred percent sure but sadly since writing this, it seems possible that the Xidulu female leopard may have in fact lost one of her cubs. When rangers last saw her moving, she only had one cub in tow and was contact calling for the other. She was seen on the bushbuck carcass for two consecutive days and at all times there was only one cub seen with her. We believe that both cubs were with her just a few days prior to this when she was east of our boundary, so we can only surmise as to what happened. This does once again go to show just how tough it is being a leopard in these parts with the predator density being what it is and only gives me more reason to respect the survival skills of this particular leopard. We hope that she returns to Londolozi again soon and that by some small chance has both cubs with her. As always, we look forward to keeping you updated.