The original viewable leopard of Londolozi, if not Africa. In 1979 this leopard appeared as if by magic, allowing vehicles to view her.
This female is a success story all in herself, being born as a single cub to the Riverbank 3:3 female in early 2012.
For well over a month after she was first viewed with serious swelling around her hind left ankle, she refused to place any weight on the leg, hopping painfully along on her other three. Yet despite what we feared may well prove to be a fatal injury, she was still able to hunt, and over the course of a few weeks was found with a number of kills, feeding with her surviving male cub. Although certainly possible, it was doubtful that any of the kills had been made by the young male, as at just over a year old his hunting abilities are likely to be limited. By far the more likely scenario is that the female was still successfully catching and killing impala and bushbuck despite her physical impairment.
In the previous post about her, we cited the case of the Dudley Riverbank 3:3 young male, who made a full recovery from a similar injury.
Thankfully, it seems as though a similar scenario is unfolding with the Ndzanzeni female. Not only has she been found continuing to hunt successfully, but recent sightings of her have seen her placing steadily more and more pressure on her injured leg. Amy Attenborough recently viewed her engaged in typical catch-me-if-you can game with her cub in the branches of a weeping boer bean tree, which isn’t what you’d expect from a leopard with a damaged ankle. If she had been resting for a while she would limp for the first few steps but as the leg warmed up, the pain seemed to ease and she could put weight on it once more.
The signs are all there for her to make a full recovery. Ranger Alistair Smith recently watched the Ntsevu lionesses break out of cover with the remains of a kill between them, but from the look of the carcass and the way it had been fed on (if my memory serves me correctly it was a bushbuck), it was a kill that had been robbed from a leopard. Since the Inyathini male, the other territorial individual to patrol in that area, was on a different part of the reserve at the time, it seems likely that the kill was stolen by the lions from the Ndzanzeni female. As unlucky as losing the kill may have been for her, the fact remains that she was still able to catch the antelope in the first place, and then nimble enough to evade the lions when they came onto the scene. Had she still been badly injured, it may have been her, rather than the bushbuck, that Alistair would have seen clamped between the lioness’ jaws.
This leopard shows us that even when we experience pain in life, we don’t have to choose to suffer too. Despite her condition, she continues to show incredible depths of resilience. Life is full of trials of varying kinds and the Ndzanzeni female is the perfect example of how you can pull through even when the chances appear slim. What could have been a very sad ending to the story of the Ndzanzeni female, her cub, and indeed the lineage of the Mother Leopard, looks set not to end today.