We ran a post recently that examined the female leopard dynamics in the northern reaches of Londolozi, and talked about the relatively unknown Ingrid Dam female. When we first started seeing her she had a young cub in tow, who has subsequently become independent and is operating in a roughly similar area under the name Ingrid Dam young female.
Without regular sightings of either of these two, it’s hard to keep track of their movements, or even to form a reliable idea of where their respective home ranges extend to. We are forced to rely on what we know about other females in the area and fill in the blank spaces in between.
Imagine our surprise then when only a few days ago the tracks of a female leading at least two small cubs with her were found near Ximpalapala koppie. The koppie itself would have been unavailable as a densite for at least the last 2 months while the Tailless female was denning her latest litter on top, but the fact remains that somewhere in the area, a female leopard (which we are almost sure must be the Ingrid Dam female herself, her daughter probably being too young to fall pregnant) has been stashing very young cubs, and we have been one the wiser.
Big blocks and a lack of roads of course contribute to the lack of sightings of whichever leopard it might be, but we now await the first sighting of this latest litter.
With a number of other leopard cubs currently on Londolozi, it takes dedication to turn away from the easier-to-find litters in the south and attempt to track down these unknowns in the north, but I’m sure any day now one of the ranger/tracker teams will strike gold and see them for the first time.
In the meantime, enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The Nkoveni female catches sight of an impala and instinctively drops into a stalk. She gave up almost immediately as the impala saw her, and she was actually on her way to fetch her cubs to take them to another kill she had just made. Leopards are incredibly opportunistic hunters, and if it is worth their while, they’ll be very hesitant to forego a chance at an easy meal. Photograph by James Tyrrell
She walked past our vehicle, then moving past Callum Gowar, Joy Mathebula and their guests who were parked just behind us. Photograph by James Tyrrell
Kevin Power, Ray “Ice Cube” Mabelane and guests cross the Causeway, threading their way through the local hamerkop population. Photograph by James Tyrrell
A lot of the tooth and jaw muscle development in young carnivores is assisted by chewing on whatever they can find; softer objects to start and then progressing to harder and harder things. As a consequence, every chewable stick, branch, root and bone around the local hyena den is covered in bite marks, as demonstrated by this, the youngest cub regularly viewed at the den. Photograph by James Tyrrell
A giraffe’s head whips up from a drink at a pan, disturbing the oxpeckers that were riding on its neck. Photograph by Kevin Power
Two of Londolozi’s – and Africa’s – most recognizable birds; the lilac-breasted roller (foreground) and yellow-billed hornbill. The hornbill in this picture is a female, distinguishable from the male by her slightly smaller bill. Photograph by Callum Gowar
Cracks, grooves and wrinkles all add character to an elephant’s trunk and tusks, which it uses in close cooperation to access food with. Photograph by Callum Gowar
The golden mane of one of the Tsalala young males, backlit beautifully. With the absence of dominant males in the northern part of the property, this trio are still hanging on to this unexpected lifeline. Photograph by Callum Gowar
The bright red eye and deeply forked tail are the defining features used to differentiate this fork-tailed drongo from the similar-looking African Black flycatcher. Photograph by Callum Gowar
Range Alfie Mathebula and tracker Shadrack Mkhabela weave through the grassy crests of Winnis’ Clearing on the search for the Xidulu female and her cubs. Photograph by James Tyrrell
The Tsalala young males, despite currently remaining with the Breakaway pride, are most likely going to be pushed out soon. By who, it’s impossible to say, although reports of the Mantimanhle coalition – 5 big males – coming our way, have begun to stir excitement amongst the guiding and tracking team here. Photograph by James Tyrrell
The Flat Rock male drops low into a crouch as a pair of wildebeest approach from out of the woodland. Although capable of killing far bigger animals than themselves, leopards often restrict themselves to what they are able to hoist up a tree, and avoiding the sharp horns of something like a wildebeest would also generally be the preferred option. Photograph by James Tyrrell.
Without seeing the lack of a full mane, one could easily think this photo was of a fully grown, territorial male lion. One of the Tsalala young males, already with a number of scars. Photograph by Callum Gowar.
Wild dogs move quickly, so a sighting with them can either be an absolute treat, or turn into a real headache for a ranger, as he or she attempts to keep up with the pack as they thread their way through thickets and through grassy areas that conceal multiple obstructions and hazards like logs and rocks. Photograph by James Tyrrell
One of the Nkoveni cubs peers out from behind a dead branch. Although the cubs are rapidly relaxing in the presence of the Land Rovers, we are still nevertheless restricting vehicle movement around them until they area bit older. Photograph by Kevin Power