Leopards have perfected the art of being elusive but here at Londolozi, we are afforded the luxury of almost daily encounters. Some leopards we see more often than others. Due, in part, to the vicinity of their respective territory to camp and their unique behaviour around vehicles. Some are shyer than others and some continue with their day as if we are not even there. The latter is the perfect way to describe the Ximungwe Female. However, for the past two months, we have simply been chasing shadows.
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
The Ximungwe Female’s Territory
Both male and female leopards will establish a territory and will, as a general rule, only be found in their territory. The Ximungwe Female was ceded a large part of her territory by her mother, the Mashaba Female, when she became an independent leopard a number of years ago. Her territory is situated south of our camps and sits in the central south of Londolozi. Naturally, due to this being quite close to camp, she has been one of the most viewed leopards on our reserve for the last number of years. She has recently raised her second male cub to independence, the Ntomi Male, and over the past two years we have been treated to tremendous sightings of them. Sightings of the young male have been quite frequent over the past two months but we have had only one sighting of the Ximungwe Female over the same period. Having not been at Londolozi for all of her independent life I decided to ask some of the rangers and trackers that have been if this was usual behaviour for her or not.
Has this happened before?
It turns out that this is not too unusual for the Ximungwe Female. There have been two occasions over the past few years when she has also seemingly vanished. On both occasions when she did turn up again it was quite far from her usual territory. Female leopards will leave their territories to seek out males on the periphery of their territory to mate. The reason is that they will try to mate with these males so that when they have cubs, and any of these males happen to encounter their cubs, they are not sure if they are in fact the father or not. A female leopard will exert a lot of time and energy to raise their cubs and any new males that come into contact with cubs that they know for sure are not their own will be attacked aggressively often leading to their demise. So perhaps this is what the Ximungwe Female has been up to, looking for males.
An inquisitive young male that has been pushed further north by the Senegal Bush Male.
When last did we see her mating?
She was last seen mating with the Senegal Bush Male at the beginning of 2023. We have not seen her mating with any other males since then, however, the only time she has been seen in the last two months was much further south of her usual territory. So there is a chance that she has been mating with other males outside of her normal territory. Perhaps history is repeating itself. What followed the previous bouts of her disappearing for several weeks were very exciting times for the ranger and tracker teams.
Initially seen as a young male in 2016, this leopard only properly established territory on Londolozi in mid-2019
Could she have a new litter of cubs?
What followed in both 2019 as well as 2021 was the arrival of a new litter of cubs. Both of which produced a cub that she raised to independence. The Ximungwe Female at the age of eight years old this year has done incredibly well to have already raised two to independence, could we be fortunate enough to watch her raise a third? Hopefully over the course of the next few weeks chasing her shadow results in us seeing not only her shadow but that of a few small shadows too.