During my time at Londolozi, I have been very fortunate to witness the Nkoveni Female excel in her role as a mother. Motherhood as a leopard is incredibly challenging. Statistically speaking, under 40% of leopard cubs survive it through their first year and the fact that the Nkoveni Female was able to raise two cubs to independence at the same time is nothing short of a miracle. We were truly blessed with phenomenal viewing of the Nkoveni Trio as she navigated raising these two, now independent, leopards the Xinkhova Female and Stone Drift Female.
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.
There is always bound to be a lot of change when female leopards become independent, particularly in an area such as Londolozi where the leopard populations are thriving and densities are so high. The change mostly comes in the shifting of territories as the mother tries to accommodate her daughters. This is already happening in the southeast. The focus on todays’ blog is to give an update and overview of the Nkoveni Trio and what has been going on with each of them.
The Nkoveni Female
We know that female leopards often cede a portion of their territory to their female cubs once they become independent. The mother will do this by attempting to expand her own territory in a particular direction which then opens up space to cede a portion to her daughter, as the Nkoveni Female did when she raised the Plaque Rock Female to independence. Having additionally raised the twins successfully the pressure is now beginning to mount with the two daughters looking to establish themselves somewhere in the area. This has resulted in the Nkoveni Female shifting her territory further south and applying subsequent pressure on the Three Rivers Female which eventually escalated into this altercation.
You can never fully predict what is going to happen but over the last few months, this is what we have observed.
The Three Rivers Female is now spending time much further south than what we have witnessed in the past. The Nkoveni Female, who previously would be found close to the Sand River, now patrols the undulating crests around Tu-tones and as far south as Monzo Sheet erosion. This shift has repercussions for both leopards as they are more likely to come into contact with one another, and this makes it more challenging for both, particularly when it comes to protection over their food and future litters of cubs. Her run-ins with the Three Rivers Female sadly resulted in her losing her most recent litter of cubs, but hopefully, with her recent territorial expansion, her future litters will be safer.
The Xinkhova Female
With the Nkoveni Female’s shift south, this has opened up space for her youngsters. Our viewing of the Xinkhova Female has been significantly more regular than that of her sister. She now spends the majority of her time along the Maxabene River. This is ideal territory for a young female leopard, as it is dominated by dense riverine vegetation, an abundance of prey sources, and in time possible den sites. Although it’s the early days of her independence, with her being seen mostly in this area, it leads us to think that this is where she might settle.
Female leopards normally become sexually mature between the ages of 24 and 28 months, with the Xinkhova Female rapidly approaching three years of age in February 2024, It is uncommon for a leopard to have cubs before the age of 36 months. So although she was eagerly following the Three Rivers Young Male not so long ago, and we thought that she could be interested in mating, this is unlikely to be the case until she is a little older. With her mother being so successful at raising cubs, we have high hopes for this young female and hope she stays around in this area.
The Stone Drift Female
We have not been seeing this young female as much as we have been seeing her sister. A big factor for this is that there is a portion of the Nkoveni Female’s territory that is not on Londolozi, and this portion happens to be where the Stone Drift Female has spent most of her time. The last time I saw this leopard was about three months ago and she was along the western bank of the Sand River in the south of the reserve. Being a recently independent leopard, there is a lot of learning and exploring that takes place, so it is no surprise to see a youngster so far away from her mother’s territory. However, she has since moved further north into the area she knows, and where I believe she will claim in the future.
So a lot lies ahead for these two young females as they continue to adjust to the life of an independent leopard and all the trials and tribulations that come with it. We hope that both of them settle and secure territory on Londolozi so we can continue the remarkable viewing of them going forward. However, this is probably hopeful thinking and we might see only one remaining in the area as the other ventures further afield to find territory. The Nkoveni Female will probably fall pregnant again soon and let’s hope she has a little more luck with this next litter than with her previous one. Anyway, we will keep you updated on any developments of these three going forward.