Tag Archives: Leopard

A Tribute to the Ravenscourt Female: December 2001 – June 2013

September 10, 2013 - Conservation,Experience,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge,Singita Ebony Lodge,Wildlife

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

It is with great sadness that I write this tribute to the Ravenscourt female leopard, as, for me, she is and always will be synonymous with Singita Sabi Sand.

My primary motivation for wanting to become a field guide in the Sabi Sand was to gain an insight into the traditionally secretive and private lives of leopards and the Ravenscourt female gave me more of an insight into her life than I ever could have wished for.

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

Although once the topic of much debate, photographic evidence now shows that the Ravenscourt female was born in December 2001 to the Makwela female. In her latter years, she could be identified by the 3 notches in her right ear as well as her 2:3 spot pattern (the ratio indicates the number of spots on the left and right hand side of its snout).

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

My interaction with her began during my first experience at Singita in 2009, during which time she was exhibiting an unusual behavioural phenomenon of simultaneously raising a new litter of cubs and still feeding and tolerating the presence of the Xindzele male from her previous litter. This meant that it was not all unusual to see four different leopards together, lounging in a marula tree, during a visit to Singita Sabi Sand. This surprised me and only further fuelled my desire to find out as much as possible about these beautiful animals.

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

From the day I started the guide training course in January 2010, I was enchanted by this leopardess. As a guide I was always quick to discourage guests from anthropomorphizing and would remind them that our goal is to watch these animals in their natural environments without getting too attached to any individuals. Unfortunately, while I managed to do this for the most part, I developed a soft spot for this particular female leopard. I suppose this can be expected when one is spending close on eight hours a day either tracking or viewing a particular animal.

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

In this case, it was exacerbated by the fact that Singita Ebony Lodge and Singita Boulders Lodge, as well as the staff village, were situated in the middle of her territory. This meant that I had many more interactions with the Ravenscourt female than any other leopard at Singita. It seemed as if she wanted to let us know that this was still her territory as she would stroll through the staff village or lodge with her rasping territorial call carrying into the night. Often I would wake up to this call, part the curtain in my room, and see her walking along the corridor outside my window. With this kind of interaction, it is almost impossible not to become attached to an animal.

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

Most animals seem to shy away from human activity, but she seemed to be unperturbed and even seemed to be more comfortable around the lodges. This was epitomized by the fact that she gave birth to three litters of cubs in the immediate vicinity of the lodges. Whilst this can be partly be attributed to the dense vegetation on the banks of the Sand River being particularly suitable for leopard den sites, I feel that she may have decided that the human habitation would discourage other predators that may pose a threat to her cubs.

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

For the two years I spent at Singita, I felt a part of her life and she was most definitely a part of mine. The first time I saw leopards mating was when she was mating with the Kashane male in the Ximobanyane riverbed. My first ever glimpse of leopard cubs was when her three cubs cautiously crept out of a rocky crevice in the Millennium koppies to nurse from her. She was the first leopard I ever followed on a hunt. Whilst often unsuccessful, it was a fantastic experience to eventually witness her catch and feed upon a vervet monkey. She was the first leopard I ever bumped into on foot and I also spent many hours with the trackers following her spoor. If there was ever a stable sighting, I would often go out on my own, in between game drives, and sit with her and her offspring, hoping to glean something new. In fact, my last few hours at Singita were spent sitting alone with her and her two cubs as they fed on an impala on top of the Boulders koppies.

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

These are just a few of the many memories I have of her, memories that I’ll treasure for many years to come.

I often questioned her maternal skills given the statistics. All in all, she gave birth to six litters comprising 14 cubs, of which only four males have survived to maturity (Xmobanyane male of ’06, Xindzele male of ’07, West Street male of ’09 and the current Ravenscourt young male of ’12). In the end, however, she proved me wrong by paying the ultimate price in order to protect her near independent cub from a rogue male leopard. To me, this illustrates just how difficult life is for a female leopard and despite her 29% success rate in raising cubs, she was clearly an extremely dedicated mother.

I am so grateful for the two years I got to spend watching and following the Ravenscourt female and her offspring; she made such a difference in my life as I know she did in the lives of many rangers, trackers and guests at Singita.

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

© Photos copyright James Crookes 

Field guide James Crookes worked at Singita Sabi Sand for a number of years and has always had a passion for these elusive cats. He says: “I chose to work in the Sabi Sand Reserve based on its reputation for amazing leopard viewing, arguably the best in the world. Not one to usually have checklists, I must admit that I did have one regarding leopards. My goal was to see a leopard kill, leopards mating and leopard cubs. These experiences have been nothing short of amazing and I will always cherish the memories I have of these times at Singita.”

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Looking Back: Great Guest Photos from 2012

December 28, 2012 - Accommodation,Africa,Environment,Experience,Kruger National Park,Safari,Wildlife

We are always delighted to hear from past guests who have visited Singita, especially when they share their memories of their trip with us by way of some spectacular holiday snaps. It is so special to see the lodges and their surroundings through the eyes of our visitors and some of them have been generous enough to allow us to share these photographs with you.

Stephen Saugestad traveled to Singita Lebombo Lodge and Singita Ebony Lodge from Vancouver, Canada and was particularly taken with the variety of wildlife they spotted on their daily game drives. We hope you enjoy these lovely pictures and we encourage you to share your own photographs of Singita with us by visiting our Facebook page or getting in touch on the website.

Singita Boulders Lodge

Mandla, our Singita Sabi Sand Community Development Officer

Early morning game drive

Early morning game drive

Elephant

Leopard

Giraffe

Sunset in the Kruger National Park

© All photographs copyright Stephen Saugestad 2012

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The re-acquaintance of an old friend

October 16, 2012 - Conservation,Kruger National Park,Wildlife

During my time as a guide working at Singita Kruger National Park, I spent many long hours with the Xinkelegane female. She was one of the most relaxed and therefore commonly seen female leopards in the area. She was at ease with vehicles and this allowed us to closely observe her in her natural environment.  We became familiar with both her habits and movements.

One morning we managed to locate two tiny leopard cubs and immediately knew they belonged to her as she had been heavily pregnant.  She had hidden them in a rocky outcrop in the middle of her territory, taking every precaution to ensure their safety. In due course she slowly introduced them to us and it was wonderful following their progress, watching them develop their skills that would play such an important role later in life.

Now coming back to Singita’s private concession in the Kruger National Park, having not seen the cubs for over a year, I could hardly believe it when I heard one of the guides announce that he had located Xinkelegane’s young male offspring with an impala kill. Way to go!  He was now completely self-sufficient, a successful hunter, and he had brought down an impala ram. We headed to an open area which was dotted with large Acacias and a male impala kill lodged at the top of a tree was the giveaway – the male leopard was close by.

And then we spotted him, almost fully-grown.  We knew the father that sired him, and the resemblance between the two was remarkable.  He was strong and healthy and had finally grown into his oversized head, which made him appear slightly awkward in his earlier years.

Impala rams are extremely active at this time of year and dedicate a great deal of their time and energy rounding up females and fighting off other rival males. This, together with them being unusually vocal means they are targeted by most of the larger predators.

We decided to spend some time with the leopard, hoping to see him scale the tree and feed on the impala he had strategically wedged between branches.  Eventually without bother, he glanced at the impala and proceeded to climb the Acacia.

Watching him feed, I pondered on what a long way he had come and what a fantastic job his mother had done in raising him. There were plenty of close calls, but he had made it through his first year, the most challenging of all. Now I had witnessed him in all his glory, a survivor in this harsh environment.

James Suter, Field Guide, exploring Singita Kruger National Park.

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Family Reunion

October 18, 2011 - Kruger National Park,Wildlife

If you’ve been following news from Singita Field Guides, then you’ll remember the Xinkelengane female leopard at Singita Kruger National Park.  She has provided a multitude of gorgeous photo opportunities in the past.  But now it seems her maturing offspring are taking over the reins in the territory.

This beautiful young leopard (above) has taken over the reins from her mother it seems. Sadly, her mother, the much loved and well known Xinkelengane female has been missing for almost three months now. We are not sure where she is and we continue looking for any signs of her. In the meantime the leopard pictured, has been leaving her scent along all of the prominent landmarks within her mother’s old territory. This is vital for establishing a territory. She is still a young cat, barely 18 months of age and her territorial behavior is very early. It is perhaps brought on by the absence of a dominant female (her missing mother) and as leopards are very opportunistic she may be using the chance to make her presence known before another female claims this abundant piece of real estate.

The two cubs are still seen together from time to time. Independently they are doing very well. Both are hunting successfully and kill prey up to the size of adult male impala and young waterbuck. A recent get-together resulted in them spending the night together feeding on a carcass, and they separated again by mid-morning. The young male, pictured below to the right feels more pressure in terms of territory. His father, the Shingwenyana male, is still very active in this region. Fortunately for the young male his father has not reacted aggressively towards him allowing him to stay in this space. We even witnessed recently as this young boy watched his father mate with another female. There was no aggressive behavior from his father suggesting a strong bond between the two.

Only time will tell where these young leopards will finally set up their own territories. We hope we don’t lose track of them into the massive Kruger National Park as they have become much loved by the guides.

Singita Kruger leopard update provided by Marlon du Toit, Guide, Singita Kruger National Park.  To follow what happens to these young leopards, stay in touch with our monthly Guides’ Diaries on Singita’s website.

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Wonderful and Rare Sighting

October 10, 2011 - Safari,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

A wonderful sighting this morning (Singita Pamushana, Zimbabwe) of a relaxed mother leopard and her two tiny cubs.  Hours were spent watching their intimate rituals of nursing, bathing and playing – Jenny Hishin.

For more photographs of this remarkable sighting, take a look at Singita’s Facebook page.

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Ravenscourt Young Male Goes Solo

February 21, 2011 - Sabi Sand,Wildlife

Written by Singita Guide, James Crookes, Singita Sabi Sand

As the Ravenscourt female leopard seems about to give birth to her 5th litter, it seems fitting to discuss the fate of her previous litter.

Soon after giving birth to two cubs in April 2009, she was rejoined by the surviving male from her previous litter, the Xindzele male. This behaviour was unusual as normally a female will chase off any intruders, regardless of whether or not they are her progeny, in an effort to protect her new cubs. During this period, it was not uncommon to see 4 leopards together at a kill or in a tree. Only in the Sabi Sand!

Unfortunately, one of the cubs, also a male, was killed during July 2010 by an adult male leopard (see July 2010 guides’ diary for details).

After this incident, there were intermittent sightings of the remaining 3 leopards, but from September 2010, the Xindzele male seemed to become completely independent and he hasn’t been seen with the other two since. He was born in November 2007, so by September 2010 he was approaching 3 years of age, by which time he is definitely expected to have become independent. This male would often be seen calling and urine spraying, both signs of territoriality indicating that he is staking claim to a certain area. His territory seems to now be centred around an area to the west of the Singita property, where he is said to be the dominant male in the area and has asserted this fact through a couple of disputes. Unfortunately, this means that we haven’t been seeing him as much as we used to, although we are still occasionally afforded this privilege.

The Ravenscourt female and young male were still seen together on a regular basis up until her mating with the Khashane male in mid October 2010. After this separation they never seemed to rejoin and it was from around this time that there were intermittent sightings of the Ravenscourt young male attempting to hunt, a sure sign that he was fending for himself and no longer relying on his mother to provide him with kills.

Leopards are the only large cats that don’t have any form of hunting training and so, when they become independent, they rely purely on instinct to learn to hunt. Lions will take their cubs to watch a hunt and cheetah will stun prey items and allow the cubs to practice their skills on these animals. A mother leopard, however, will leave her cubs at a place of safety, make a kill, and then return to collect the cubs and take them to feed allowing them no exposure to the hunt itself. This is therefore often a trying time for leopards and they often struggle to take down larger prey items. Being the resourceful animals they are, leopards will usually resort to smaller prey items while they sharpen their skills. The Ravenscourt young male was seen on more than one occasion hunting water monitor lizards in the Sand River.

To read the full tale of the young Ravenscourt male leopard, refer to James’ article in the January Singita Sabi Sand Guides’ Diary

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Wildlife – the News in Pictures

November 08, 2010 - Wildlife

From Singita Guide, Marlon du Toit – Singita Kruger National Park

Featured in this article are a variety of photographs from elephants to lions and leopards.  In general the Singita Kruger concession is still blowing everyone away, including guides that have been here for a long time.  Viewings of wildlife have been spectacular over the past weeks.

As far as lions go, the Mountain Pride has been staying within the Kori Clearing vicinity for the last two weeks now.  That is good news for us as we don’t have to drive too the far north in order to find them.

Xinkelengene Cub

Young elephants having fun.


Another highlight from the last few days were two slender mongooses battling it out for territory.  They went about it as if their lives depended on it, and it was the first time I witnessed something like that.  Also, we have been seeing black rhino at least twice a week; amazing considering there are fewer that 500 in the whole entire park.

To keep up with monthly wildlife happenings at all of our Singita reserves, follow our Guide’s Diaries for updates.

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