Londolozi’s love affair with leopards dates back to when John Varty and Elmon Mhlongo first started tracking and viewing leopards regularly in the 70’s. An exercise that has become known as the ‘habituation’ process. The Mother leopard was the first individual to have been actively documented and since then many more generations of leopards have become independent and viewed on Londolozi – an incredibly significant dynasty.
Who Are They and What Lies Ahead for Them?
Roughly only one in four leopards will make it one year old, and of those that make it to this milestone, 75% will make it to independence. It is no easy feat raising cubs in the wild and so when there are young leopards that are coming of age and almost independent, it’s an extremely exciting prospect. I will focus on four individuals, from youngest to oldest, that have come from three different mothers and lay out the various scenarios that lie ahead for them.
The Two Nkoveni Young Females
These two youngsters were born around February 2021, making them around 18 months old at the time of writing this and on the cusp of becoming independent leopards. It has been an absolute pleasure to watch these two young females come into their own over the past few months, and see their different personalities play out. As they have grown older they have started to become slightly easier to tell apart as well.
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.
A stunning young female with a very similar spot pattern to her mother, the Nkoveni Female. Litter still completely intact March 2022.
Also young and playful but rather with a spot pattern of 3:2. She is slightly bigger than her sister.
The natural course of progression would be for the Nkoveni Female to cede a portion of her territory to her female cubs in the coming months, however, after already apportioned a significant amount of her original territory to her first independent cub, the Plaque Rock Female, will there be space? We might see one (or more) of the three leopards having to find a territory elsewhere, as was the case with the first set of independent cubs belonging to the Nhlanguleni Female. In this scenario, the Finfoot Female fled far southwards whilst the Nkuwa Female established herself in an area close to where she was raised – even though they were both from the same litter.
My feeling is that the Nkoveni Female will continue moving further east, as she did after the Plaque Rock Female became independent, whilst her two daughters Establish themselves on the Eastern portion of Londolozi nearby to each other.
The Ximungwe Young Male
Also born in February 2021, the Ximungwe Young Male is roughly the same age as the Nkoveni Young Females and is spending less and less time with his mother. The last time that the Ximungwe Female voluntarily shared a kill with him that we know of, was more than a month ago. He is now bigger than his mother and so naturally she is more reluctant to share the kills that she makes with him as he is now able to fend her away from the meat, leaving her needing to look for another meal.
Young male leopards spend a slightly longer period with their mother before becoming independent from their mother, as a result, he will most likely spend a little bit more time in the area in which he has been raised. This area lies fairly close to the Londolozi camps, but he will eventually be forced to become nomadic and roam elsewhere.
Most likely within the next six months or so due to pressure from the dominant male in the area, the Senegal Bush Male (his father), no longer tolerating his presence. Until then we should be able to continue viewing him on central Londolozi. For a more in-depth analysis of what lies ahead for this young male leopard, read what’s Next for the Ximungwe Young Male?
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
A single cub of the Ximungwe Female's second litter. Initially rather skittish but is very relaxed now. Birth mark in his left eye.
The Piccadilly Young Female
Having reached independence at the end of 2021, the Piccadilly Female has had most of her mother’s territory ceded to her. Having been born during the global Coronavirus pandemic and not being exposed much to vehicles and people, she was originally very skittish. She has however settled somewhat and become a lot more comfortable.
Now that she has established herself in the Northern parts of Londolozi, it’s unlikely that she will leave. I wouldn’t be surprised if she started looking for a potential mate before the end of the year.
This female is most often encountered near the Sand River to the east of the Londolozi camps.
Young inquisitive beautiful female, bordering on independence as of November 2021
When Will They Formerly be Named?
As it stands now, their names will remain as their mother’s, followed by “young male” or “young female” until they have formerly established territories for themselves. At that point, we will decide on a suitable name, usually, one that is relevant to the leopard, whether it be a prominent landscape feature within its territory, or a unique attribute of the animal. In a nutshell, this name is used for research purposes by Panthera a big cat research organisation and reference sake amongst the rangers and trackers.
It will be interesting to see how the leopard dynamics and territories might shift in the coming months as these leopards attempt to establish themselves. For the most recent update on leopards’ territories on Londolozi, read Dan’s blogs on male and female leopards’ territories. Watch this space to see how it all plays out in the coming months!