At the end of November last year, I wrote a blog formally introducing the Xinkhova Female Leopard. I mentioned that the process of naming the two Nkoveni Youngsters was going to be a collaboration between us and our friendly neighbours, MalaMala. A few months have passed since then, and we’re thrilled to see both these young females thriving.
The Nkoveni 3:2 Young Female is now officially referred to as the Stone Drift 3:2 Female.
She was named after a small drainage line close to the Sand River. She and her sister, the Xinkhova Female, had been seen here on many occasions. Whilst they were still little cubs, they spent a lot of time keeping a low profile within the dense thickets of the many small drainage systems within this area.
Also young and playful but rather with a spot pattern of 3:2. She is slightly bigger than her sister.
I will never forget the day when I first saw those two little cubs. During the morning game drive, tracks of the Nkoveni Female and her two cubs were found heading into one of the drainage lines within this area. Later on, ranger Robyn Morrison and I set out in the hopes we would be lucky enough to find them.
It wasn’t long until we made our way to the area, anticipating and excited about what could unfold. We slowly drove alongside the drainage line, scanning it very thoroughly from the vehicle. With no luck after about an hour, we saw an open patch along the drainage line with what looked like leopard tracks in the soft sand. At this stage, we were looking through our binoculars, as we could not get the vehicle much closer due to how steep the bank of the drainage was. I eventually decided to carefully walk down to get a better view to confirm if it was indeed tracks of leopards we had seen.
I had not walked 20 metres from the vehicle when I suddenly heard a deep, low growl, emanating from a guarri bush right behind the small sandy patch I had set off towards. I knew this was definitely the sound of a protective mother leopard, warning me not to advance any closer. Needless to say, I stopped dead in my tracks.
I slowly and carefully retraced my steps back to the vehicle. We managed to manoeuvre the vehicle further up the drainage, and with a bit of luck and patience, we were rewarded with a brief but incredibly special sighting of the Nkoveni Female and her two daughters. They were roughly 10 weeks old at the time – we couldn’t believe our luck!
Below is an image that highlights the comparison between the young females and their respective spot patterning.
A stunning young female with a very similar spot pattern to her mother, the Nkoveni Female. Litter still completely intact March 2022.
When they were both quite young, up until about a year ago, it was not easy to tell them apart from a glance or if viewed from a distance or if just one of them was seen. Now that they have matured somewhat, it is a lot easier for rangers and trackers to tell them apart straight away. As they’ve gotten a bit older now, it’s noticeable that the Stone Drift Female is slightly larger than the Xinkhova Female.
Currently, we tend to see the Stone Drift Female more often than the Xinkhova Female, who we presume now spends a bit more time east of the Sand River in MalaMala. Interestingly, at the time of posting my blog introducing the Xinkhova Female, the inverse was true, where we saw a lot less of the Stone Drift Female.
However, it is expected that their movements have been a bit sporadic. They are both still young, and are in the initial stages of scouting and establishing their own respective territories. I suspect that they will continue to explore Londolozi and our neighbours, until they eventually start to settle on a more permanent basis, on a patch of land to claim their own.
It has been an incredibly exciting journey following both female leopards thus far. They have provided rangers, trackers and guests alike with some of the best leopard viewing to date. Being present for sightings with both females are memories that will be with us for the rest of our lives.
Later in the year, be sure to keep a lookout for an update on both of these females. It will be interesting to see where they begin to set up their territories. For now, they are both doing well and have made a smooth transition into independence.