Tag Archives: Ravenscourt leopard

A Love for Leopards

April 02, 2014 - Experience,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge,Singita Ebony Lodge,Wildlife

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

As with many South Africans, I grew up visiting game reserves fairly regularly, and going on camping trips in remote locations with my family during school holidays. I completely took for granted that, at a fairly young age, I had seen such incredible creatures as lions and elephants at close proximity, and in their natural habitat.

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

It was only a couple of years ago when I visited the Kruger National Park for the first time that I realised that for all my childhood game-spotting, I had never seen a leopard in the wild. Their feline grace, exquisite colouring and enigmatic nature totally captivate me, and we spent a week scouring the bushes for these elusive spotted cats but to no avail.

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

In January I was lucky enough to visit Singita Sabi Sand for the first time and was determined to track down a leopard. James and Leon, my tracking-and-guiding team, were duly briefed and we set off into the wakening bush on the first morning game drive in search of one of the area’s resident leopards. There are a number of handsome males with territories that traverse Singita’s concession in the Sabi Sand; Nyaleti, Ravenscourt and Khashane among them. They are regularly featured in the guides’ Wildlife Reports from the region and have even been spotted in and around the lodges themselves!

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

It was an absolute thrill an hour later to discover a male leopard walking casually through the bush in front of our vehicle. We followed him through the undergrowth for a short while, and watched him leap silently into a nearby ebony tree, where he used the height of the branches to get a better view of the surrounding area. We sat in the vehicle and watched him quietly for a few moments, astounded by his beauty.

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

I was lucky enough to have two more leopard sightings in as many days at Singita Sabi Sand; both equally breathtaking. It was an experience that rendered me quite speechless and something I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

All photos by field guide Ross Couper. Text by blog manager Julia da Silva.

Singita Sabi Sand is a privately owned game reserve in the Sabi Sand Reserve, adjacent to the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Spanning more than 45,000 acres, Singita Sabi Sand is renowned for high concentrations of big game and frequent leopard sightings.

Read More


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.”

Read More


Farewell Lady Ravenscourt

June 07, 2013 - Africa,Experience,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

We were heartbroken this week when one of the most beautiful and best-loved members of our leopard family was killed in a battle to protect her young by a rogue male leopard. The Ravenscourt female was a familiar sight for visitors to Singita Sabi Sand, many of whom remember her fondly and have shared their experiences on our Facebook page. Field guide Marlon du Toit observed the incident and took this touching photograph of her final moments. He writes: “[She was] a true symbol of captivating Africa, she was pure beauty.  As she lay in the shade of a leadwood and surrendered her bruised and battered body back to the earth, a delicate butterfly came to rest on her soft coat, closing the last chapter on the life of this iconic leopardess. Lady Ravenscourt you will be dearly missed.” This photo is a stunning reminder of the extreme beauty and brutality of life on this majestic continent.

Ravenscourt Female Leopard

You can read more about her life in our earlier wildlife journals and on the blog.

Read More


Maternal Instinct

February 26, 2013 - Africa,Experience,Sabi Sand,Safari,Wildlife

Leopard at Singita Sabi Sand

Francois Fourie, Field Guide at Singita Sabi Sand, had the great fortune of spotting the female Ravenscourt leopard last week, while in action defending her young. The Sabi Sand Reserve is well known for frequent leopard sightings (as well as a general diversity of game), since the big cats are attracted to the camouflage afforded them by the lush riverine flora. You can read regular updates on wildlife sightings in the area by following our fascinating monthly Guides’ Diaries.

It was once again one of those mornings that will stick with me forever. We are so privileged to wake up in this amazing place every day and get to see such incredible things; this morning just proved that we really have the best job in world.

The female Ravenscourt leopard defends her cub from a hyena

We headed out from the lodge with our main aim being to spot a leopard. We headed south and not even ten minutes into the excursion, our tracker Sandile saw the spoor of a female leopard and her cub. We knew she must be in the area because there had been a report that she had killed a young impala lamb the day before. She wasn’t on the site of the kill, instead there were plenty of hyena tracks and a drag mark suggesting that she lost her lamb to a hungry pack.

The female Ravenscourt leopard defends her cub from a hyena

We followed the fresh tracks and about 15 minutes later we found her and the cub with another impala lamb hoisted in a marula tree. Lurking hopefully at the base of the tree was an opportunistic hyena, while the Ravenscourt female lay not too far from the tree keeping a wary eye on the predator. Suddenly the cub decided to come down from his perch and with that motion the hyena promptly got to his feet, most likely assuming that the leopard had dropped the kill.  In the blink of an eye, the protective female was up and flying to attack the hyena that was threatening her cub, successfully warding him off. It was amazing to see how quickly and naturally her mothering instinct kicked in within a matter of seconds and I will remember it along with some of the greatest moments experienced in the bush.

The female Ravenscourt leopard defends her cub from a hyena

Read More


Wildlife – the News in Pictures

January 10, 2012 - Sabi Sand,Wildlife

A magnificent week of wildlife sightings at Singita Sabi Sand.  Dylan Brandt, Singita Field Guide, shares some of his close encounters from the past few days.

Ravenscourt female leopard.

Perfectly posed – the Ravenscourt female leopard.

Relaxed state of mind – Mapogo male.

Two of the Othawa pride females – in good company.

For regular wildlife updates, don’t forget to refer to our monthly Guides’ Diaries posted on Singita’s website.  Also, if you would like to receive Singita’s blog posts in your email box, subscribe to our blog via email.

Read More


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

Read More


Sign up to receive the Singita newsletter

×