As some of you may have noticed from posts in the last couple of weeks, the Mashaba Young female leopard is no longer being referred to as that. She is now known as the Ximungwe female.
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
How or why we assign names to the individual leopards can potentially be a contentious issue, so I’ll give a brief outline.
The leopards are the only animals we assign individual names to. They are solitary, territorial creatures whose lives we attempt to make sense out of through extensive record keeping. These records can only be relevant or accurate if we know which leopard did what and when, so being able to identify individuals is important. Read Rich Laburn’s post on how to identify different leopards by clicking here.
Because assigning a name to a wild animal has the potential to detract from its wildness, we try as hard as possible to restrict the use of names to conversations between rangers. Out in the bush a female leopard is simply that.
To actually come up with the names, we look at the area in which the leopard has been spending the most time and is displaying signs of territorial behaviour. This will generally involve scent marking and vocalisations when the leopard reaches a certain age. The leopard formerly known as the Mashaba Young female (had to reference Prince there) has been seen mating, or at least attempting to mate with both the Inyathini and Flat Rock males, and whilst she has not yet been actively scent marking – at least not that I’ve seen – we felt that at almost three years of age, with the signs good that she will remain in the area, or at least nearby, it was time to assign her a name.
Ximungwe is the local name for the beautiful Bateleur eagle, although the eagle itself has nothing to do with the naming of this leopard. Instead, we derived her name from Ximungwe road, which lies to the south-west of camp, and which was named for the old nest of a pair of Bateleurs that used to breed there. This road is relatively obscure, but is quite central in the area in which the Ximungwe female has been seen the most.
Given the density of territorial females in that part of Londolozi, whether or not her namesake road ultimately does fall into her territory may actually not be the Ximungwe female’s choice. She will simply have to take what she can get…