A gust whipped dust up into the air which swirled around the Land Rover as we made haste for camp. “Looks like rain,” said the guests in the row behind me. It was evening time and we were about to experience our first summer deluge. The clouds were gathering causing the daylight to fade prematurely. It was going to be a black night.
Driving through the windy darkness the spotlight lit up the eyes of some uneasy looking impala. They were gathered in a clearing as they usually do in the evening. The clearing they hoped would provide them with relative safety for what was going to be a long night.
The wind gathered strength as darkness fell. Then, suddenly it stopped. All was quiet. Slowly at first, and then with weight, the rain came down. The first drops on my roof waking me up in my warm, sheltered room. I thought of the impala in the clearing.
The wind, rain and darkness had turned it into a prefect night for leopards to hunt.
Heading out on drive the next morning things felt different. A feeling of novelty or change was in the air. The land looked clean, washed by the rain. There were lingering clouds but the rain had stopped.
That morning ten impala were to be found hoisted into trees by leopards. Some leopards had killed more than once.
The Mashaba female had hoisted one impala, her daughter the Mashaba young female, three! The Tamboti and Nkoveni females both made two kills and the Inyathini and Flat Rock males one each. These were only the ones that were found. Who knows how many others were killed and were either not found or were robbed before they could be hoisted out of reach of hyenas.
The Tamboti, Mashaba and Nkoveni females all have cubs at the moment and having more mouths to feed and benefited the most from the favourable hunting conditions.
The Mashaba young female was particularly successful, hoisting three separate kills. Leopards will instinctively kill more than once if the opportunity presents itself and stash prey up in a tree. It’s impressive to see this young two-and-a-half year old leopard already proving herself to be such a successful hunter. Once hoisted high in a Leadwood tree her prey was safe from all other predator species, except her own. In the days that followed two female leopards – the Tatowa and Tamboti females – found her stash and she was forced to share. This is a story that Amy Attenborough will share in a separate blog coming soon.
The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the camps and vehicles.
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
It is interesting to note that all ten kills made were impala. It is the most abundant antelope species here but are also optimal prey for leopards. This is because they are large, providing food for a few days but still small enough to make the hunt safe and is manageable in terms of hoisting.
A leopard who took advantage of the death of the 4:4 male in 2016 to grab territory to the west of the Londolozi camps.
Another leopard who originated in the Kruger National Park, he has established a large territory in the south eastern areas of Londolozi.
The Tamboti female inhabited the south-eastern sections of Londolozi, having a large part of her territory along the Maxabene Riverbed.
A young female that lives to the east and south of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.
Although the impala have to endure these treacherous nights, the onset of the rains brings life for the coming season. Next month the impala will start dropping their young all at once, keeping the beautiful balance of nature intact.