posted on July 22, 2009 07:59
This just in from the Londolozi Game Reserve in Sabi Sand, South Africa, about the beloved female leopard whom many of us here at Savvy Navigator observed, loved and respected over the years:
It’s another typical July winters day. The halcyon blue and honey hued bushveld is treading its way to the wind and dust of august and another season – something new. The bizarre and the surreal is something you get used to around here, like the changing of the seasons. But in this particular run-of-the-mill July week, two quite dramatic events are unfolding. The first, not ten kilometres from the lodge a friend lies dying. If you have passed through Londolozi in the last 17 years you will probably have met her. If you lingered to work and share the dream you will probably have befriended her. If you were a ranger or tracker you will probably have come to love her. I am talking, of course, of the 3:4 female.
Her life story is told somewhere else - in fact in many places. So I am not going to rehash her remarkable life for you here. Rather, I would like to comment on the alluring effect she has on so many. As I write this, she has not yet passed to wherever good mother leopards go. And over the past two years she always seemed on death’s door, but this time her back legs can no longer bear her weight, she cannot climb trees and to follow her piece of shade, she has to crawl around using her front legs. Skeletally thin, with sunken eyes she waits, probably for a hyena, to close the chapter on what for a leopard is probably an ordinary tale. So many of the staff at Londolozi have gone to say their last goodbye to a leopard who was able to bridge the gap between man and wild animal. That is no ordinary tale.
She has shared her 17 years with us, her trials and tribulations of motherhood, her constant battles with other predators and her successes and failures on hunts. She has posed for photographers and at times frustrated our best efforts to find her. Truthfully, how do you bid farewell to such an awe inspiring animal. Do you watch her last breath or just let the end become another of those wonderful bushveld mysteries?
I’m not sure what the answer is, but the second dramatic event is the respect that is being accorded her in a very Shangane fashion. Rangers and trackers are all wearing small black ribbons attached to their shirt sleeves with safety pins, in memory of her. This is normally reserved for important members of the Shangane community. To say that she has had a pronounced effect on those that have known her is a profound understatement, just like the one Elmon uttered a few weeks ago while watching her in good health “this one is a good leopard."
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