If one looks back over the history of the Nanga female, one could say she’s just been unlucky when it comes to raising cubs.
Yes, the odds of any cubs surviving aren’t high, and very few females have good track records, but the Nanga female in particular it seems has been cursed with a run of misfortune. At least one and most likely two litters of hers were killed by the now-deceased Tutlwa female. Most recorded infanticide in leopards sees males as the culprits, and female infanticide is rare. Yet successive litters of the Nanga female fell victim to her western rival. Exactly why this was, no one can say for sure, but it seems that the females were denning very close to each other at the time (in one instance at least), so the Tutlwa female may simply have seen the constant presence of another unrelated leopard as a threat, and removed the whole reason that the Nanga female was anchored to the area in the first place; her cubs.
An enigmatic female not often encountered, this leopard lives to the north of the Sand River.
The Nanga female was born to the Nyelethi 4:4 female in 2009 as part of a litter of three.
Whatever the case, it was in 2013 that the Nanga female was first recorded as giving birth, yet only 2018 that she first managed to get one of her offspring through to independence.
In late 2016 she gave birth to two cubs, that were first found at a rocky den on the banks of the Manyelethi River. One disappeared fairly early on, and the second, a female, remained skittish for a good few months before finally relaxing when a Land Rover was present.
The cub spent a large portion of its early life being stashed in or near the Manyelethi, which meanders through the heart of the Nanga female’s territory, and abounds with good hiding places for a small leopard.
The only times the Nanga female looked like being reproductively successful before this, she pushed her cub(s) into independence too early. Her first litter produced a male cub that she forced out at only a year old – if that – when she gave birth to another litter. He hung around the northern reaches of Londolozi for a few months but then was never seen again. Ironically the litter she birthed that forced him out was killed within a few weeks, so that male could even have rejoined his mother and still have been dependent for a few more months.
The latest cub (that survived) spent a couple of months extra with its mother, and this may have made all the difference.
We’ve talked before about leopard cubs reaching the age of twelve months and having their survival chances skyrocket, though a combination of factors, and the Nanga female’s surviving cub was still seen with her mother regularly until around 17 months of age (give or take a month). This meant that upon independence, she was necessarily bigger, faster, stronger, more experienced, and generally far more able to take care of herself.
As one might expect, she spent her first few months of independence in some of the areas with which she was most familiar; Marthly Pools, Southern Cross Koppies, and the Tamboti groves near Nyelethi Pan.
One place where we experienced a spate of sightings of her is one of the most beautiful areas on Londolozi; the Leadwood Forest on the western bank of the Manyelethi. The lovely road that wends its way through those ancient trees is known as Makomsava, which means “Mother Earth”, and to see a leopard there is to see one in as picturesque a setting as one could possibly wish.
In Londolozi’s history, we couldn’t come across a record of any leopard being named after this most magic of areas, so decided to confer the name on this young female, even before she was properly territorial. Realistically, the area is the boundary between the territories of the Nanga and Ingrid Dam females, yet we do still find the Makomsava female here on occasion. With female leopards often recorded as ceding sections of their territory to their female offspring, there is no reason not to hope that the Nanga female won’t do the same, and there’s the chance that that the newly named Makomsava female might take permanent ownership of the area from which she gets her name.