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August 2014 Wildland article (Article only published in Afrikaans)

29 August 2014


...(Read Part 1 of Zel)
...(Read Part 2 of Zel)

Leopards (www.leopard.tv)
Jannie Parsons
Part 3 of 3: Zorro and Zel were together for a few months in camp 4. Zorro was one of the angriest male leopards ever at Shayamanzi and Zel one of the calmest female leopards. The two adapted well together, except for one fight over a piece of meat that was captured on camera. We wondered if the two had learnt to know one another better. For safety reasons we decided to separate them. She went back to camp 3 and Zorro remained in camp 4.
We remained hopeful that Zel had become pregnant after her long stay with Zorro. Female leopards are good in hiding their pregnancy and don’t shout it from the roofs to other predators. Other predators know that leopards are a big danger and won’t hesitate to kill their cubs. It seemed as if Zel moved around her camp more regularly to patrol and protect her territory.
It also seemed as if her behaviour had changed. It was as if she crossed the camp in search of something. Maybe to see whether there were other leopards or dangers such as snakes, or maybe finding a larger hole or cave to give birth. A pregnant female is extremely dangerous and will protect her cubs
and her territory with her life.
We patiently waited for Zel to get her first cubs. She would be the first female leopard at Shayamanzi to have cubs in a 1ha holding camp. The excitement towards this great day was interrupted rudely one morning….
At the bottom of camp 3 a sad story waited for us... I was in Pretoria and was turning the internet cameras to see where Zel was. What I saw at the bottom of camp 3 on the camera was heart-breaking. I have never thought I would cry if something happened to a leopard. She arrived as a cub of four months old and was now almost four years old. This whole scene indicates that she was pregnant. She patrolled her camp and territory and we all believed she was pregnant and prepared to protect her territory and her unborn cubs with her life. In the corner of camp 3 Zel got into a fight with a wild female outside the camp, with the fence in between them. She wasn’t afraid of the 10 000 volts in the wires and she got entangled in the corner wires. On her first day in her camp she had survived the electrical fence, but this time her luck had run out.
She was so focused on the wild
female that she couldn’t get out of the entangled wires. Her last moments must have been awful. She lay among the wires with blood coming from her nose and mouth. She wasn’t pregnant and we couldn’t find cubs in the camp, maybe they were hidden beneath shrubs and did not survive without a mother. The large, natural camps at Shayamanzi keep other predators out, protect the leopards within and the people on the outside, but sometimes all one’s precautions for conservation and laws that have to be abided by, have the opposite effect. Yes, it is the exception that it happens, but we didn’t want Zel’s beautiful story to end in this way.
Zel’s legacy and fighting spirit stay alive in the stories we tell and in the songs dedicated to these special leopard characters at Shayamanzi.
Zel’s name is derived from our daughter’s name, Izelle.
Zizi is derived from my wife’s name, Issie. I often call her Zizi-Top. It is nice on the tongue and was the name of a band in our youth that made good music. Issie loves music.

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