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July 2014 Wildland article (Article only published in Afrikaans)

30 July 2014


...(Read Part 1 of Zel)
...(Read Part 3 of Zel)

Leopards (www.leopard.tv)
Jannie Parsons
Part 2 of 3: Her radio transmitter lay between the rocks, but there was no sign of her. Maybe the baboons had eaten her. Baboons do eat meat.
A few days later the building contractor, Happy, phoned us from the farm and said he saw a “massive cat” the previous evening, which had killed and eaten a small cat. I went to the farm the following day to see what was going on.
The remains of the small cat we put in the store room. The same night the leopard came back to fetch the remains of the small cat.
Petrus and Niklaas immediately recognised the tracks around the store room as those of Zel. The following few nights some of the peacocks started to vanish. The small leopard gets into the tree, chases the peacocks who sit sleeping high on the branches, and then bites them to death on the ground. Again the two cubs rewrote the books as it is very rare that four-month-old leopard cubs will survive on their own in the wild African environment.
We also immediately realised that a young, hungry leopard around the house could be dangerous for humans, especially for small children. The options for Zel didn’t look too good as she is used to humans around her cage since she
was very small. She should either go back to a cage (zoo), be put down or get her own large camp.
Zel in any way first had to be caught again. A cage was put alongside the fence where she regularly crept through to catch the ducks of the neighbour. On the same morning that KykNet made a television series on the farm, Zel was caught in the cage. She was treated like an actress and was photographed from every angle. These films were later used by KykNet at the beginning of every episode of a series of thirteen episodes. Zel was soon well known across South Africa and there was no way that she could be put down or given to a zoo.
Nature Conservation gave the necessary permits to permanently keep Zel. She was kept in a cement and chicken wire room while her 1ha camp was made ready.
The big day eventually arrived that Zel could be released into her 1ha camp. Zel got another chance on survival, this time in her own camp among rocks and trees. The vet and a few other people were present when Zel was released in camp 2. In the camp next to her were the two sisters, Zaza and Ziana.
Zel calmly jogged through camp 2, along the electrified fence, a type of
fence she didn’t know yet. An exciting and grateful moment changed into a nightmare in a few seconds when Zel got entangled in the electric wires. Seconds felt like hours when I shouted to Petrus to switch off the fence. He did it fast, but it seems as if we were too late. Zel sank to the ground and stayed in one position. Few animals will be able to survive the electric shocks for longer than 20 seconds.
She remained lying dead-still for long, then suddenly got up and drunkenly walked away. Another time she had played with death and survived, but possible infection of the cardiac muscle was the vet’s major concern.
Zel recovered excellently and became a beautiful, healthy young female leopard that survived almost three and a half years in the natural leopard camps at the top of Makoppa Mountain at Shayamanzi. The leopard camps were baptised as Leopard Kingdom, as the leopards have a natural camp to themselves without predators. In addition they are fed beef.
It became time to bring the young male, Zorro, and Zel together...(Read further in Part 3)

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