Zaza's story

Zaza, a female leopard with a dance that enthrals men

ZazaStatistics indicate that South Africa has even less leopards than rhinos. It will only need “a wise man from the east” to say that leopard nails, hide or teeth make men irresistible for women to have leopards go down the same road as rhinos. Actually, it is really the leopards’ droppings that make a man strong and irresistible (tongue-in-cheek).

If you follow Shayamanzi’s leopard mystery project, you will see that it is in fact the female that “catches” the male. She has a roll, dance and scent to make her irresistible for the male. She seduces, not the male. She secretes pheromones that cause the male to change direction and to follow her for many kilometres.   

When he finds her and she is ready she starts a dance that will amaze you. She dances lightly in the grass and on the rocks all around the male and secretes pheromones and a scent. She even utilises the wind to blow the scent down wind. During the dance she rolls in front of the male, jumps over him or on him and lies in the mating position right in front of him. She will even cautiously and subtly use a seductive aggression to impose herself on the male. It will not help him to hide on top of a rock, she balances herself on the rock next to him. She watches him closely and when he opens an eye she acts swiftly. Mating occurs literally hundreds of times, day and night (especially at night). The male is cautious towards the female during the mating process. After each mating session he will bite her behind the neck and make all kinds of noises and grumps before suddenly jumping aside to prevent her sharp nails harming him. There is a theory that he hurts her during the mating process and needs to get out of the way rapidly to avoid being hit or scratched in the face.

She follows him for the whole week and their energy, especially that of the female, is amazing. It is as if she has an urgency to get cubs to ensure the survival of the species.

Few cubs survive in the African bush with all its dangers. Shayamanzi tries to promote leopard breeding in the 1 ha holding camps in an effort to conserve these beautiful cats.

Very few people have the privilege to see or even photograph these scenes, especially over a long period. Shayamanzi’s unmanned internet cameras are positioned among the shrubs and in the camps and are controlled from a distance of hundreds of kilometres, making these recordings possible. It requires hours of staying awake to film these activities, but is all worth it if it will help to make any person, farmer or hunter think twice before killing a leopard.

Machiel Roets wrote a nice song about this unique and special dance. It is sung and danced by “Liefling” and Pretville actrice Malee van der Merwe ( with Ferdinand Gernandt). In the Prettville film there even was a ZaZa’s Studio and the song was played as closing song in the film.  Zaza, the female leopard, already became a star in 2008 when her root canal operation made the pages of Beeld and Pretoria News. The root canal operation on a leopard was a first for Onderstepoort and was successfully done by Dr G Steenkamp – a veterinary dental specialist.

Many interesting incidents and situations with Zaza were filmed during the past six years.

May the Zaza song inspire men and women to rather promote leopard tourism, film projects and research projects by the universities to conserve the leopards for future generations, than to shoot each leopard that comes into sight.