I don’t have too many recent photos to suggest that the Nkoveni female might be heavily pregnant. That’s mainly because I have only seen her twice in the last two or three months, and both times were in long grass.
From being probably the most viewed leopard on Londolozi the Nkoveni female’s status has changed to that of seldom-seen, and it may be that she has relinquished a large portion of her former territory.
We know she has been spending a lot of time to the east of Londolozi, mating with both the Senegal Bush Male and an unknown and relatively skittish male who we presume has ventured in from the Kruger Park. Her movements may have been largely due to her actively seeking out these males, but in some part they be a partial ceding of territory to her daughter. The Nkoveni young female has been moving though all her mother’s old haunts – drainage lines, thickets and the like – although at less than two years of age (she was born in April 2018) – she has yet to display any properly territorial behaviour.
Young leopards like her tend not to move along typical routes that territorial adults would; it’s not often you’ll find them moving down a prominent game path or road for an extended period of time. They seem to be very much aware of the lower rung on the leopard totem pole that they occupy, and remain even more unobtrusive than the more mature individuals of their species would. Their movements tend to be erratic and they pop up in the most unlikely of places.
I digress. The Nkoveni female is the one we’re talking about. So yes she’s been seen less and less. She was reported as getting into a big fight with the Piccadilly female when trespassing on her territory in company with the Senegal Bush male, but latest sightings of her confirm she came out of the encounter relatively unscathed (as we are led to believe the Piccadilly female did too).
The photo above was the last time I saw her, about a week ago. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a leopard scent mark that frequently; she was spraying on pretty much every marula tree she passed, and she was walking a direct line from west to east. She would give her territorial rasp every few minutes as well. When female leopards do this, it is often a good indication that they are pregnant, and they want to reinforce their territorial boundaries, making sure that rivals are fully aware that the area is occupied.
Ranger Melvin Sambo recently found her north of the Sand River, showing signs that she was lactating. Since then she has again been viewed mating with the Senegal Bush male to the east of Londolozi. This doesn’t mean too much, as females will still mate when they are pregnant; the more males they mate with the more confused the paternity becomes and the more likely the cubs will be to survive.
We’ll be watching this space with interest…