In the wake of the Tamboti female’s disappearance (we will release a tribute post soon, as by now we have to accept that she has died), it is suddenly all systems go in the scrap for what was once her territory.
Having controlled probably the largest tract of land of any of Londolozi’s territorial female leopards, the Tamboti female leaves behind her some of the most prime leopard real-estate, with approximately six kilometres of Sand River frontage, the extensive riparian vegetation of the Maxabene riverbed, and innumerable drainage lines and rolling hills through- and across which to hunt.
Within the last week or so, six (!) different females have been seen within a few hundred metres of what was once the core of the Tamboti female’s territory, so it’s safe to assume that the map is about to be redrawn. One of those leopards was the Tamboti young female (her latest cub, who is still healthy), who is unlikely to stake her claim, being so young, but it seems likely that some sort of conflict among the others is in the offing.
The youngest of the five remaining individuals is the Three Rivers female, formerly the Xidulu young female. At just over two years old, she is also unlikely to be able to compete with the older and larger females, but the fact that she survived after the untimely death of her mother is enough for the time being.
The largest of the other four is the Mashaba female, and it seems as though she has already claimed the bulk of the Maxebene riverbed for herself, having been seen venturing far to the south on a number of occasions. She certainly seems most likely to take the bulk of the Tamboti female’s territory.
The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best-known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the vehicles.
Her daughter, the Nkoveni female, territorial to the east of the Londolozi camps, doesn’t yet look like she’s pushed south into the Tamboti female’s old patrol grounds, but has instead been seen to the west of the camps more and more, meaning she is possibly filling up the void left behind by the Mashaba female moving south.
The Ximungwe female, a daughter of the Mashaba female from 2015 and newly displaying territorial behaviour, fills in the territory from the west, and at three-and-a-half is probably capable of defending a small corner of Londolozi for herself.
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
The last female involved is the Ndzanzeni female, who was recently found on a duiker kill in the heart of where the Tamboti female used to stash her cubs. This final piece of the puzzle proves almost as conclusively as one can get that the Tamboti female is no more.
This female is a success story all in herself, being born as a single cub to the Riverbank 3:3 female in early 2012.
Throw into the mix the dominant Inyathini male, the Ndzanzeni young male who has been seen foolishly scent-marking in the area (he’s only two years old), the Tatowa young male who is for all intents and purposes independent, and the Island female who may even look to push back west across the Sand River, and you suddenly have one of the most exciting areas to be viewing leopards in Southern Africa. Ten individuals dancing around each other, without the outcome very far from certain.
Shifting territories isn’t an overnight process, so whatever develops will only play out over the next few months. All I know is when I need to find a leopard(s), I know exactly which area I’m going to be heading down to…