Name: Thumbela female was initially known as Zakumi female (Zakumi was named after the FIFA 2010 World Cup mascot which was itself a leopard). However, Zakumi is not a real word (where the ZA refers to the international abbreviation for South Africa, and KUMI means ‘ten’ in Zulu) and it was decided that a more traditional Shangaan name should be used, and Thumbela (meaning ‘hide’) was chosen due to the habit of this young leopard to spend some of her time sleeping inside the game viewing hide at Hide Dam.
|Thumbela, living up to her name at Hide Dam|
Territory: Thumbela is still a leopard nearing independence and only roams around the core areas of her mother’s territory. Her activities are centred on the Machaton Riverbed, and in particular the wedge created by the Machaton Riverbed and No Name Riverbed, with Hide Dam and Entrance Dam being two of her favourite haunts. She will follow her mother south of Machaton Dam on occasions but tends to spend more time further north.
|(click on map for larger view)|
Male: Too young to mate or establish her own territory.
Cubs: No cubs yet
Mother: Rockfig Jnr female
Siblings: One brother named XXX, but he was killed in June 2010 by the Machaton pride of lions
Neighbours: As a still-dependent leopard, Thumbela spends most of her time in the core of her mother’s territory, and as such has little contact with other leopards, especially nice Nkateko was pressured out of the area. To the west, Nthombi and her male cub could potentially come into contact with Thumbela.
Story: Thumbela was born as one of two cubs to Rockfig Jnr, and they were her first successful litter to make it out of hiding. Together with her brother, Thumbela grew up in the presence of the Land Rovers, and from an early age learnt not to fear them, and her antics and games she played with her brother made for many memorable sightings of the two of them. Sadly he was killed when they were about 7 months old, but Thumbela continues to grow in confidence and size with each passing week. Her new favourite hide-out is literally that; a hide! One has to be very careful when approaching the game-viewing hide at Hide Dam, as Thumbela can often be found sitting in the hide watching the goings on at the waterhole nearby! Young leopards normally become independent between 16 and 20 months old, and that is when the meetings between mother and daughter become less friendly. Even before this age was reached, Thumebela was a skilful hunter and would catch things like baby impalas, steenbok, mongooses, francolins and guineafowl and basically anything else that caught her eye. After the bond between mother and cub is broken, Thumbela will be tolerated in Rockfig Jnr’s territory for a few months longer until she matures and nears the age of becoming sexually reproductive, and then she will need to establish a territory of her own.
The most striking characteristic of Thumbela, is the fact that she has blue-green eyes, as opposed to the regular golden eyes of leopards, and this is very similar to the eye colours that her grandmother, Rockfig female, had.
|Thumbela knows to get out of the way of harm! in the top two photos, she was taking refuge from a pack of wild dogs that ran in and stole her kill, while in the bottom shot, she is up a tree with a kill to avoid the ever-present hyenas|