Although male and female leopards are not directly competing for territory, they both play an integral part in each other’s success. Males seek to secure a territory with access to animals in which to hunt and feed on as well as females to mate with and in turn pass on their genes. Female leopards are also very territorial and are continuously looking to expand or sometimes shift their current territories for a few different reasons. The availability of food is important, but higher on the priority list is the availability of suitable den-sites in order to give birth to their cubs and keep them safe for the first few months of their lives. In a previous blog, we had a closer look at the male leopard territories, which seem to have changed a bit already. Within this blog, we will focus on Female territories, with the understanding that they are most likely going to shift and change too.
Females’ territories and the upbringing of their cubs are hugely affected by the dominant male dynamics. If unstable, the likelihood of the female’s cubs surviving is very slim, as the biggest threats to young leopard cubs are other leopards. A dominant male with a stronghold over a territory will keep rivals out and chase off young nomadic males. With female leopards having much smaller territories, their density is higher, having a few different females all encompassed by one male’s territory.
The first leopard we will look at is Londolozi’s oldest and most successful female leopard, the Mashaba Female. She has seen her territory shift quite considerably in the last two years. Up until early 2019, the Mashaba Female laid claim to the areas surrounding the Londolozi Camps and along the Sand River. As of late, she has shifted very far south towards our southern boundary.
The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best-known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the vehicles.
We presume that this could be a result of being put under pressure by her most recent offspring the Ximungwe Female (born 2015). The Ximungwe Female has occupied the central parts of the reserve and is currently raising a young male cub.
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
To the east of our camps, we see a large overlap in the territory between the Plaque Rock Female (born 2018) and her mother the Nkoveni Female (born 2012).
A pretty young playful female found along the river to the east of camp
In inheriting a portion of her mother’s territory, Plaque Rock Female is found a bit closer to camp and as a result, we have seen the Nkoveni Female shift a little further east, but still providing us with some unbelievable game viewing with her two current 12-month-old cubs.
A gorgeous female who is found to the east of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.
The western parts of our camps still see the dominant Nhlanguleni Female holding territory. She has been fairly scarce over the previous months, where she was believed to be raising one cub, but sadly we have our suspicions that this cub did not survive.
Initially skittish she spent a lot of time in the Sand River, now relaxed she makes up the majority of leopard viewing west of camp.
Her latest independent offspring, the Nkuwa Female has inherited the northern part of her mother’s territory and is seen in the northern parts of the reserve.
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.
A small female often found in NW Marthly. Similar spot pattern to her mother the Ingrid Dam Female.
Another two dominant females in the northern sector of Londolozi are the Xinzele Female and Piccadilly Female. We very seldomly see the Makomsava Female, she has shifted her territory further north.
This female is most often encountered near the Sand River to the east of the Londolozi camps.
The Piccadilly Female also raising an older female cub has made a home in the northeastern parts of the reserve, it’s going to become interesting to see what part of her mother’s territory the Piccadilly Young Female will inherit. The Xinzele Female has become the dominant female over the central northern parts of Londolozi, keeping away all encroaching female leopards, so far.
Young inquisitive beautiful female, bordering on independence as of November 2021
As we venture down into the southern parts of the reserve, in the east we are able to find the Three Rivers Female, who is part of the Sunsetbend lineage and that is clear in her golden coat. She has secured a territory that was left vacant a few years ago when the Tamboti Female was killed. Currently, the Three Rivers Female is raising a young male cub who is about six months old and doing incredibly well with this being her first litter.
Forced into early independence as her mother was killed by the Southern Avoca Males.
To the south of the Three Rivers Female, we find the Ndzandzeni Female, the last standing female of the Original Mother leopard lineage. We also sadly believe that she has lost the two cubs she was raising. They have not been seen for quite some time now. She is ageing now and hopes of her raising one last litter to pass on the Mother leopard lineage are dwindling, but not completely lost.
This female is a success story all in herself, being born as a single cub to the Riverbank 3:3 female in early 2012.
The Ntsumi Female, a new female that we are seeing in the deep south has started putting pressure on the Ndzandzeni Female from the south. Born in the Sabi Sabi camps by her mother, the Little Bush Female in 2016. She was dominant over central Shaws property but as of late she has shifted north.
This female was born in the Sabi Sabi camps and became territorial in central Shaws, after inheriting a piece of her mother's territory.
The southwestern grasslands have been lying vacant for a while. Originally occupied by the Totowa Female, who was last seen in about July 2020 so sadly we presume she has died. In the last few months, we have had a handful of sightings of a new female in the area known as the Ndzutini Female. She was born to the north of Londolozi in 2018, her mother is the Tiyani Female, and her presumed Father is the Hukumuri Male. She was seen mating with the Tortoise Pan Male in September 2021 and so if successful in falling pregnant and she remains in the southwest, she could bear her first litter of cubs on Londolozi.
Young independent female that settled in the south west grasslands of the reserve.
All in all, the territories of both male and female leopards are very exciting and interesting. The truth is that none of the theories and assumptions can be guaranteed to be a hundred percent true. These wild predators live in a world of their own, which is adjusting on a day-to-day basis. What we can say for sure is that each day we get to view these changes in dynamics we can count ourselves extremely privileged.