For those of you that have followed the story of the Leopards of Londolozi over the last couple of decades there will be names that stand out to you. Strong females with even stronger blood lines that have shaped the leopard dynamics in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve over many years. Names like Sunset Bend, Maxabene and Vomba females spring to mind very quickly and that’s just the start. I could add a lot more names to that list, but I don’t want this post going too far down memory lane as the one female leopard I want to focus on today is still very much around, but we just do not see her as much. She is the Mashaba Female.
Sightings of the Mashaba Female have been few and far between of late, largely due to the fact that the two cubs she raised to adulthood, the Nkoveni and Ximungwe females, have taken over large parts of her territory. It is natural for a female leopard to cede territory to her daughter(s) in order to accommodate her/them but when you start to have multiple offspring that you do this for, it does mean that either your own territory becomes incredibly small or she has to shift it completely, which seems to be what she has done.
The Mashaba female is 12 years old now and up until a few months back she used to occupy a territory that was very close to the Londolozi camps. It was this proximity to camp that meant she fast became one of the leopards that we saw the most of as each time we set off on and returned from a game drive it was straight through the middle of her territory. As a result, the rangers of Londolozi over the years have able to her story as closely as one could hope for.
These days she seems to have moved a bit further south on our reserve, confining her movements to the central parts, but it seems that she is not holding as much territory as she used to. This means that the need for her to undertake extended territorial patrols that would help our tracking efforts in the past are not as prevalent. She is still in very good condition and although 12 years is moving into senior status as a leopard, there are many cases of female leopards reaching ages well upwards of 15.
The last sighting of her was a couple of weeks ago when she arrived at the scene of a hippo carcass that was being fed on by lots of hyenas. She must have been chased up the tree that she was seen in because she did not look comfortable and it would seem as if she had been looking for an easy meal on the carcass. Most leopards will scavenge if the opportunity presents itself but as they get older this behaviour is more frequent. Age-wise she should still be very capable of hunting, but it has been some time since we have seen her on a kill of her own. Maybe we just haven’t been looking hard enough!
I now have an incredible urge to go and find her and spend some time following her just to try and get some sort of idea what the next chapter in this incredible leopard’s life will hold. With a mother that lived to 16 years old and a grandmother that lived to 18 years old, the Mashaba Female has some strong genes. Will she be able to raise a third cub to adulthood? Is she still as capable as she was in her prime? Will she take over more territory? These are the questions that still needs answers and we will definitely let you know what they are when or if we find out.