Tony Goldman’s name should be familiar to regular readers of the Londolozi Blog. He has contributed some wonderful photographic material in the past, and he recently submitted a series of pictures of the well-established Mashaba female leopard.
Tony has been viewing this leopard since she was only four years old, and has been observing her progress and growth on his annual and sometimes twice-annual trips with ranger Sandros Sihlangu.
In rough chronological order, enjoy some of Tony’s photographic highlights of this by-now iconic leopard…
Wet weather doesn’t deter a young Mashaba female from tree-climbing, a favourite occupation for a young leopard.
The Mashaba female was born to the Vomba female in 2008, and upon gaining independence was still known as the Vomba young female for a year or so. Like most young female leopards, she spent far more time up in trees than her older, slightly more mature counterparts.
2012 and a first attempt at raising cubs. The litter born in August of that year produced the Nkoveni female, seen here with her mother. This young cub has grown up to become one of Londolozi’s more prominent leopards.
The Nkoveni female’s 2:2 spot pattern is immediately recognisable even at such a young age.
Fairly clean-cut ears of the Mashaba female are still indicative of a youngish leopard. At the age she is now – as one will see in later photos in this post – the ears become a lot more tatty through fighting, cuts of thorns, scratching, and just general wear and tear.
The 3:3 spot pattern of this female is one of the more common currently found in the Leopards of Londolozi, but her territory and coat colour make her very recognisable for the uninitiated leopard viewer.
Scratches under her eye tell of an aggressive encounter with another leopard. The Mashaba female could easily have lost an eye in this encounter and it seems luck played a big role in preventing her losing half her vision.
Ironically the fight was with her cousin the Nhlanguleni female, who was just becoming territorial at the time, and pushing in from her mother the Tutlwa female’s territory. She also came out of the encounter pretty scratched up.
Although top predators, leopards don’t quite occupy the highest rung in the hierarchy. That spot is reserved exclusively for lions. Here the Mashaba female had been treed by the Tsalala pride, and only being fleet of foot kept her out of their clutches. How many times do you think she’s been treed when no one is around?
And then in 2015, the Mashaba female birthed her second litter that would be successful; the Ximungwe female (seen on the right) is now independent and raising cubs of her own.
As young cubs start approaching independence, play between them and their mothers becomes more and more boisterous, even aggressive at times. Here a young Ximungwe female takes exception to her mother’s playful swatting.
The quintessential leopard drinking shot; tongue out, eyes up with both pupils visible, glints of light in both. Beautiful.
Just how comfortable can a tree branch be to sleep on? I think this photo tells us…
Yawning means imminent activity. Compare this photo with the one below from a later visit from Tony. The state of a large carnivore’s teeth can be used to gauge its age (roughly). In this photo the Mashaba female still has intact upper canines, while below, one of them has lost its tip.
An almost identical yawn from the Mashaba female, photographed from the other side. One can see how just the tip is missing from her upper left canine. She may well have lost it biting into a particularly hard piece of bone.
The Mashaba female as she is currently viewed today. Older and far more experienced. At only just over 10-years-old, she should hopefully have a good many years left in her.