Friday, 3 December 2010

Shongile Female Leopard

Name: Shongile Female (Shongile means ‘Beautiful’)

Born: March 2008

Territory: Shongile is still a young female and not yet fully in control of a territory. She still utilises the territory of her mother (Argyle Jnr), and spends time on Motswari, the eastern half of Argyle, and the eastern half of Ingwelala, and extends slightly north of Ingwelala into Buffelsbed. Shongile centres her activities between Ingwelala camp and Motswari.

(click on map for larger view)

Males: Shongile is not yet sexually mature, so has not been seen mating with a male. Although Argyle male is the dominant male in the area, he will preferably chose not to mate with his own daughter.

Cubs: No cubs yet

Mother: Argyle Jnr female

Father: Argyle male

Siblings: Vyeboom Dam male, 2:1 male

Neighbours: Shongile shares the area that she resides in with several leopards, including Argyle Jnr female, Argyle male, Vyeboom Dam male, 2:1 male and Kuhanya female; there could potentially be conflict between these two young females in the future as they look to set up territories of their own in a similar area.

Story: Shongile was born to Argyle Jnr as part of a litter of three cubs, all of whom survived to independence. Of these four leopards, Shongile proved to be the most relaxed, and has continued to grow in confidence around the vehicles as time goes by. This confidence comes through in the way that Shongile is regularly found in close proximity to the camp, even during the day. The night watchman regularly reports finding Shongile sleeping on the breakfast or lunch veranda, and many of the staff bump into her on the way back to the staff village. When Shongile was nearing independence and starting to hunt on her own, she discovered that that resident business of banded mongooses that wandered around the staff village in the afternoons were easy targets and on more than one occasions she was seen to run into the middle of the village to catch one of the mongooses, even with several of the staff sitting around a few meters away! Although a small leopard, Shongile is has been recorded catching much larger prey, including fully grown impalas. One interesting aspect of Shongile, and indeed her siblings, is the way that she still associates with her mother (even with her new cubs) or father. As she grows older, these interactions will become less tolerated and she will have to move to the periphery of her mother’s territory and look for a piece of land of her own. We hope that she makes the property around Motswari part of her future territory.

Many guides will however remember her most famously for the time she was found sleeping in a fish eagle's nest!  As an opportunistic hunter, Shongile seized the moment and climber high up into a knobthorn tree and ended up eating not only the chicks, but also one of the adult fish eagles!  She then spent the rest of the day sleeping in the nest - it was probably the strangest place I ever found a leopard!

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