Over the past 22 months, the Nkoveni Female and her two daughters have brought much joy to rangers, trackers and guests alike. During this period, the Nkoveni trio has provided us with some of the best leopard viewing on Londolozi. Recently, we’ve witnessed the natural progression of the two youngsters to become independent of their mother. They are now entering the early stages of adulthood. We have seen both these young females making kills for themselves and they are doing incredibly well. These recent developments on the Nkoveni youngsters bring me to the purpose of this blog post.
Also young and playful but rather with a spot pattern of 3:2. She is slightly bigger than her sister.
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 Nkoveni Female’s territory extends across our eastern boundary into our neighbouring reserve MalaMala. This means that her youngsters have spent a considerable amount of time in both reserves. We have therefore decided that the naming of these two youngsters should be a collaboration between us and our friendly neighbours. We will be naming the 2:2 Young Female who we typically see more often, and MalaMala will name the other 3:2 Young Female. So stay tuned for the update on the 3:2 Young Female’s new name!
A stunning young female with a very similar spot pattern to her mother, the Nkoveni Female. Litter still completely intact March 2022.
Without further ado, we’ll officially announce that the Nkoveni 2:2 Young Female will no longer be referred to as that, and she will now be known as the Xinkhova 2:2 Female. The ranging and tracking team are very excited to have two new females that will eventually set up territories within the Sabi Sands area. We have already started seeing her and her sibling venturing slightly further afield from their known range.
The word xinkhova is the local Shangaan name for an owl. Although, the bird itself has nothing to do with the naming of this leopard. Instead, we derived her name from Xinkhova Link road, which lies to the southeast of the camp. This road is relatively small and obscure but is quite central to the area in which she and her sibling have been seen the most. Surrounding Xinkhova Link road are some very large and beautiful open crests, dotted with marula trees as far as the eye can see.
But there is more to the name than it simply being after a road in the area. There is no way of knowing where these two young females will end up or become territorial. Although we like to think that young females tend to establish territory close to their mother’s, this is not always the case, especially when there are two young females being raised together and both vying for said territory close to their mothers. So by using a road name or prominent feature within the area, they spend time in, if they do disperse and settle somewhere else they will take a little bit of Londolozi with them.
Young leopards are very vulnerable and are in constant need of a place where they can escape danger. The relatively open, spacious nature of the terrain within the Nkoveni Female’s territory meant that the treetops were most often their safe place. They are regularly found resting up in the shady boughs of large Jackalberry or Marula trees. Just as their mother often does, while keeping a watchful eye on the movements of distant herds of impala.
The Xinkhova Female and her sister have spent many a day in the safety of the treetops, waiting for their mother to return from a hunt. Leopards tend to be slightly more arboreal in environments that don’t provide much means of being able to be concealed on the ground. As I drive through the Nkoveni Female’s territory, I find myself scanning the prominent trees a lot more thoroughly than I would otherwise for different leopards.
Going forward, there is probably no better time for these young leopards to enter independence. In the coming weeks, there will be an abundance of newborn impala lambs on the reserve. Which, for even young inexperienced leopards, the little lambs can sometimes be an easy meal. In some cases, that might be all they need to get a head-start on their independence. We have already witnessed some of the struggles that the recently independent Ntomi Male is experiencing – sometimes having to settle for less-than-ideal prey, such as marsh terrapins.
It is a very necessary learning curve that all young leopards will go through. The experience they will gain through their trials and tribulations is invaluable. Having said that though, I have no doubt that both the Xinkhova Female and her sibling will thrive. We are looking forward to seeing them progress through their adulthood. It has been an incredible success story for the Nkoveni Female thus far in raising both cubs to independence. We are very excited about what lies ahead for both her and her newly independent daughters.