Written by: Greg McCall-Peat
Here at Umlani Bushcamp we are fortunate enough to have a few individual leopards that break the shy and elusive stereotype. They almost seem to enjoy being seen by our game drive vehicles. These leopards carry out their daily lives in the presence of our guests and guides alike, unperturbed by our vehicles, allowing us into their secretive existence and giving us the chance to get to know each one on a very intimate level.
We’d like to introduce a few of our stars that we see on an almost daily basis, and give you the chance to get to know them as we do. Perhaps one day you’ll get the chance to meet them in person when you visit us.
This beautiful blue eyed leopard is a real legend of the Timbavati. Now, at almost 11 years old, she has raised many litters of cubs, is an extremely good huntress and is one the most successful leopards in the reserve. Her main territory lies within Umlani’s property so she is one of our most seen leopards and never fails to give a good show on our game drives. She seems to pose for her photographs like a model in a fashion shoot. She has no problem flaunting herself and is often found lounging in the branches of trees or out in the open giving us a full view of her beauty.
Nyeleti, which means star, is the youngest offspring of Rockfig Jnr. She is a year-and-a-half and very close to becoming independent. She is spending more and more time exploring away from her mother.
When it comes to female cubs they will often inherit part of their mother’s territory and we are hoping that Nyeleti will take the section around Umlani camp as her own. She seems to spend the majority of her time here and Rockfig Jnr will more than likely shift north allowing space for her daughter.
Nyeleti is just as beautiful as her mom and has inherited her mother’s love of posing. She adds her own unique touch to life by choosing places like our treehouse to sleep off the days. We look forward to many more sightings of Nyeleti in the future and watching this young female as she makes the transition from playful, innocent cub to the perfection that is an adult leopard.
An up-and-coming male, Nstogwaan is the son of one of our other female leopards in the area. There hasn’t been a relaxed male leopard in the reserve for many years, so the fact that this male has decided to stick around is great news for us as we will now not only get to experience female leopards in action but also see how the big males operate. There is nothing more impressive than seeing a powerful, adult male leopard in action.
Nstogwaan is still a relatively young male but is fast approaching his prime and becoming big and beautiful. We often find him out in the open marking territory, showing off that he is boss and warning any other males in the area that he is the one to be reckoned with. Interesting times lie ahead as Nstogwaan asserts himself as a dominant male and defends himself against the other males in the area. We hope that he comes out victorious and goes on to father many cubs and controls this section of the reserve for years to come.
Marula is a female that moved in from a neighbouring reserve. She arrived as a relaxed leopard and first moved into Rockfig Jnr’s territory. But after an altercation with the much larger, more experienced leopard, Marula established her territory a little further north. Since her arrival on the reserve she has raised a litter of cubs and currently has a young male cub.
Marula is a stunning looking leopard and can be very easily identified by her pink nose and golden eyes. She is named after the Marula tree, which is her preferred resting place. She actually has certain trees that she favours and the guides can often predict where to find her.
Being a young female, Marula still has many years ahead of her and is set to remain a queen of her territory for some time.
The Rothsay male, or Frankenstein as we call him, is the dominant male in our southern section. He is rarely seen and has only been seen by our rangers once before. He isn’t the biggest male around but he has the potential to pack on the pounds and become a brute.
The name Frankenstein comes from the fact that he looks pretty beaten up from previous fights and one old wound that has healed makes him unmistakeable. He is missing part of his top lip, a noticeable mark even from a distance. This male has certainly been in the wars, and a kink in his tail and a torn ear attest to his fighting spirit. On the one occasion that our guests did see him, we witnessed him running into a pack of six hyena to steal a kill. Incidents like this not only show his ‘bad boy’ attitude but also explain the scars he has received over the years.
After spending some time with this male leopard, and proving that he is not a ghost that just leaves tracks on our roads, we are confident that we will have many more sightings of him, especially because he operates a lot around the camp and Umlani’s property.
True to the elusive reputation of her kind, she is a female that no one has been able to get a photo of. She is extremely skittish but calls the immediate area of Umlani lodge home. Every day alarm calling monkeys, impala, kudu and bushbuck alert us to her presence. She has been seen drinking at the lodge waterhole and on some occasions even drinking from the lodge swimming pool.
Margaret has been named after the lodge owner’s mum, who fears absolutely nothing. However, one night when she was alone in camp, a sound outside grabbed her attention and when she investigated she found the female leopard drinking from her swimming pool. The leopard promptly hissed and snarled at her, and she quickly retreated back into her room and locked herself in until the rest of the family showed up. It was thought very fitting to name the leopard after her as the leopard has been the only animal out here to actually scare her.
It has become a challenge amongst Umlani guides and management to see who can be the first person to get a photo of this female leopard. Perhaps it will be a lucky guest staying at the lodge, but we are hoping that she will one day reach the point where she relaxes and becomes a leopard we see often.
Umlani Bushcamp’s surrounds are ruled by its leopards, and we’re happy to live under their reign.