Having recently gone through my photos, I discovered that almost 90 percent of my recent leopard images are of the Nkuwa female.
One of two sisters born to the Nhlanguleni Female, both of whom made it to independence, the first intact litter to do so in 7 years.
First, some background on this leopard…
Her name was bestowed upon her after she was seen a number of times in the vicinity of one of the enormous Sycamore Fig trees that dot the Sand River. Nkuwa is the local Shangaan name for this species of tree.
She is one of two sisters raised to independence by the Nhlanguleni female. All three females’ territories border one another, although to be fair the two sisters are not officially territorial yet.
The Nkuwa female, now aged almost three years, spends most of her time in the north-western parts of Londolozi…
Viewing of this female leopard has been off the charts, with her seemingly settling in to the area south of Ximpalapala koppie.
Maintaining a territory is no easy task as her sister the Finfoot female, and the neighbouring Xinzele female, are both vying for the same area. The growing hostility in this part of Londolozi can be seen in a recent video filmed by ranger Dan Hirschowitz.
Part of the reason I believe we are getting such amazing sightings of the Nkuwa female is just that; she is having to constantly scent mark in order to establish this area as hers. This results in tracking opportunities for us; patrolling for a leopard means walking and walking means tracks…
And there’s one more reason, the vegetation in her territory…
The area she operates within it is set with the central crests close to the iconic Ximpalapala Koppie. These expansive are littered with large Marula trees, fields of wild flowers and views for miles over the surrounding reserve.
Fortunately for me I work with eagle-eye tracker Ray Mabilane, who does not miss the slightest hint of a tail hanging from a marula bough.
The Nkuwa female loves to spend time resting in Marulas, as do many young leopards, in particular young females. Not only does it provide a safe and shady spot to lie but it provides a vantage point for scanning the surrounds for potential prey. If you are lucky enough to spend some time with this female, her behaviour is interesting.
After resting – which can sometimes be for hours – she will generally descend the tree she was in and immediately start scent marking, moving from tree to tree, then ascending and descending almost every second marula as she goes, constantly scanning. Seeing a leopard climb up and down a tree is something out of this world. Their agility is remarkable, and needless to say it provides a great photographic opportunity.
Going through my past few weeks of sightings, I thought it only fitting to pay some appreciation to this female leopard in particular.
I can guarantee you one thing: Ray and myself will be driving a lot slower on those crests going forward, eyes peeled, as I am sure the Nkuwa female’s story is only just beginning.
Hi Dean she’s absolutely gorgeous! What a stunner, very well done!
A beautiful name. Lovely blog Dean.
Great job! She’s gorgeous.
Dean, I loved all the photos, especially Leopard tree🤗
Portrait shot shows a much darker overall skin tone, leading to an easier camouflage.
Wonderful photos of this beautiful leopard ; I love especially her portrait.
Isn’t she a beauty !!! 💕 Just love the closeup you got of her Dean. I look forward to hearing and seeing more of her in the future. .. Perhaps, with luck, through my own eyes🙏😉
Dean, Thanks for the wonderful story about the Nkuwa female. Since her area is close to the Ximpalapala koppie, one of our favorite places, we look forward to seeing her when we return in July! We don’t see her in the leopard cards and don’t remember who her mother is?
Nkuwa and Finfoot are so pretty….we saw them in August 2019 right before they went independent! They were feeding with Nhulanguleni and with Flat Rock immediately nearby, on a carcass quite peacefully. So glad that she is still in the area and doing so well!
What glorious photos, especially the head shot of this magnificent creature!!! Stunning! Thank you.
Loved your portrait photo of her, Dean. I saw Nkuwa when she was about 6 months old, with her sister and mother. Wasn’t Finfoot seen several times around the camp some months ago?
Stunning images Dean! The first portrait could easily be a painting!!
Dean, what a beautiful leopard she is and the portrait shot is just fabulous – hard to stop looking at it! Thank you.
The Nkuwa female is so special and she really has to defend her territory from her sister the finfoot female and the other leopards. I am sure it is a beautiful sight to see her ascending and descending from the marula trees in the moment, the photo’s would be astounding to see. Where here territory bounds by the Ximpalapala koppieis, is absolutely breath taking. I could live in Londolozi forever with the animals and beautiful scenery. I watched the fight on video taken by Dan on the 19th Dec, it was certainly a warning to her smaller sister to stay away. She loves the Marula trees and rightfully so, as her name derives from the those trees in Shangaa. Thanks Dean for the wonderful story on Nkuwa female, she is so beautiful.
Oh, she is so beautiful! Any idea of her father? Does her litter sister remind her? Waiting for new photos of this young gem. Thanks!
You’ve posted a beautiful portrait of her and I hope to capture one during my trip at the beginning of April- fingers crossed the airport doesn’t shut down! 🤞🤞😎📷. In the meantime, cheers to you and Ray and good sightings.
Super, Dean! Beautiful photos. The Trees and the Bush is so beautiful right now after all the rain, isn’t it? Love to just drive through the Bush itself – but to see a Leopard as well – Wow! My aunt used to make a lot of Marula Jelly on the family farm in the Waterberg. Mabula Lodge bought the farm and now call that portion “Mokaikai” where all the sole owners live. My husband, Neil, tried to make Marula Liqueur years ago in the farm kitchen. It was NOT a big success! We still drank it though to be polite! These Leopards are all stunning cats. Absolutely fascinating …. Wendy M
Lovely photos, esp Nkuwa in the tree.
Interesting, this is the first time I’ve read about this particular leopard.
Amazing portrait of this Leopard! Wow!