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Sean Zeederberg

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As a young boy growing up on an agricultural farm in Zimbabwe, Sean spent every opportunity entertaining himself outdoors, camping in the local nature reserve and learning about all facets of the natural world. After completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental ...

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on Epic Battle of Wills: Nkoveni Female VS Three Rivers Female- Virtual Safari #181

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Such a difficult encounter to witness on all sides. I feel for the Nkoveni female and her instinct to protect her cubs, and I feel for the Three Rivers Female who was injured and beaten in her own territory. I do hope the Three Rivers female doesn’t get an infection and is able to recover completely and quickly. If I remember correctly she has an older female cub that she’s still supporting, doesn’t she? Or is that wrong?

Chelsea, it was a difficult encounter to witness and watch post the event. I think we all feel for the Nkoveni Female having lost both her cubs. The Three Rivers Female appears to be recovering well and moving on with life. She had a young male that is now independent and moving around by himself.

Senior Digital Ranger

Sean..great stuff…just returned from 3 weeks in Serengeti/NDUTU/Crater, etc. and saw exactly one (1) leopard and a couple of cheetahs…we normally see 5-6 close enough to photograph as you do in Lon…really disappointed since the safari success sorta depends on leopard photographer…all other animals (lions, etc) about average

Amazing, Jim. I hope you at least managed to get some decent shots of what you did see in the Serengeti.

Hi Sean, yes that’s a real possibility, but I followed a bit the Nkoveni female ‘s motherhood, I think that she has an very very strong mother instinct, and this may lead her to get into a rival’s territory to assure dominance in order to protect her cubs more. She appeared quite confident with her display of size and strength. Don’t forget that mothers have a very high progesterone peak, which leads even small and weaker creatures to fight like hell. I think this is the main reason for this tragedy. It is unlikely that she would risk the future of her offspring to enlarge a territory. The Three River Female is exceptionally beautiful and has a sad story behind, she proved to be a fighter and survivor, but nothing can ever beat a mother’s fury and protection. I do hope that a cub is alive and that the Three River Female recovers, she looked quite bruised and wounded. A hyena may have taken the chance, which is nature but also horrible to think of!

Hi Francesca, that could be the reason, but it is just strange that she would lead her cubs into an area that we for certain will find the Three Rivers Female, knowing very well that she will kill the cubs if she came across them. So sadly, it was only after the tragedy that she asserted her dominance. The Three Rivers Female is also a phenomenal leopardess and is recovering well.

I think she likely found the perfect place to hide her babies, the risk is always very high, given to leopards, hyenas, lions. Was it far from lions prides?

It was far from lions at the time.

Sean, thanks for the incredible story you shared. As you know we were there for most of the drama. Your storytelling brought the whole thing into focus and we appreciate the delicate way you explained the whole epic encounter. It’s very sad to hear that Nkoveni’s cubs are gone but amazed that Three Rivers has survived – quite impressive. This was the “real world” of the bush for sure and as hard as it is to watch, we know that there is constant movement for leopards and lions.

It was very sad to know that the Nkoveni Cubs were killed. It really was the real world of the bush.

So heartbreaking to see them fighting and to hear that both the gorgeous cubs of the
Nkoveni females are dead. My goodness but that was a fierce battle, Nkoveni trying to conceive territory and Three Rivers trying to hold on to her territory and killing her cubs. Nor wander Nkoveni was so angry. But it is very sad and as you say Sean, this is what happens in the wild.

The fight was so intense and it is sad that the cubs are both gone.

So sad to watch/hear. Wonderful that there are so many leopards thriving in your area but also devastating that their area is so limited because of human encroachment. Think of there was more territory for them to conquer more leopards would be able to thrive (along with so many other animals).

We are very fortunate that the leopard population around Londolozi is thriving and that is what results in these conflicts between the leopards. Historically there was human encroachment but thanks to the likes of Dave Varty who are relentlessly trying to get more land under wildlife to expand the area that these wild animals can roam across.

Tons of credit and admiration to Dave Varty and all of you at Londolozi for your passion and diligence.

Senior Digital Ranger

So sad about the cubs. What an intense encounter of them both

It really is sad.

Senior Digital Ranger

Wow that was a tough and epic battle, very hard to watch at times. Sad that the cubs didn’t survive but as you say it is nature at it’s absolutely raw best. Thanks for the description of what happened to the leopards involved.

It was such a brutal battle to watch and I am glad I could help paint the bigger picture.

What a powerful video Sean! I sat here on the edge of my seat watching these two females fight tooth and nail until I thought the Three Rivers would finally submit or run away. She did follow through with the former but it was a fight ve never seen except with males. Nkoveni is quite large compared to the 3 Rivers and that was obvious when the two were side by side. As you stated, it’s tempting to project human reasoning for this bloody encounter, and we will never be able to speak or think “cat”, but it does seem likely that the Three Rivers was not pleased to see Nkoveni and her cubs eating in a tree that was her territory, so she did what came naturally – kill and defend. A mother’s instincts are very strong in the animal world, so retaliation was eminent. It will be interesting to see how their lives progress from here, and if in fact, Nkoveni does take part of that territory to make her statement. I do hope a miracle of nature occurs and the second cub is safe.

Thankfully the Three Rivers Female eventually submitted to the Nkoveni Female. I think a lot of their behaviour is based on just pure instinct but maybe driven by some of these ‘human-based thought processes’.

This is some amazing footage, Sean. The Nkoveni female is such a successful mother, but has experienced much loss in the past. The Three Rivers female has a special place in my memory, having seen her with her brother and mother just before the death of Xidulu and disappearance of the male cub. I hope they can work through their territorial differences, heal quickly and mother again…

The Nkoveni Female is a successful mother and has been through a lot. As has the Three Rivers Female. Hopefully they can settle this and move forward.

This was really an epic battles of two incredibly strong female leopards trying to impose their wills on one another. It‘s sad that the two cubs died because of that, however, it is, as you said, Sean, nature. It is wonderful that Londolozi has so many leopards thanks to the diverse nature of the territory and it is great that they can be viewed in these incredibly beautiful surroundings.

It really was an epic battle and tragic that the cubs were killed in the process but it is raw nature. We are super fortunate that there are so many leopards in this area.

So so sad…..but as much as we want the cats all to survive it seems that the entire Sabi Sand is likely at or above it’s Carrying Capacity for leopards.

There are certainly many leopards around but the populations are thriving and with the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve being open to the Kruger National Park, they would move further afield and set up territory elsewhere if it was far beyond the carrying capacity.

Sean, thanks for providing insight and perspective to this series of incidents between the 2 leopards. We were fortunate to have witnessed a 3 day prelude to this encounter with both aninals snarling and growling at each other. We had no idea that this epic battle would unfold directly in fron of our vehicle. It was difficult to watch up close.

Thanks, Vin. It was an incredible encounter and I am sure it would have been difficult to watch.

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