Makwela Transfrontier Safaris has adopted the name of the remarkable female leopard Makwela.

The meaning of the word “Kwela” means to climb on or on top of (Tsonga language – from the South African Shangaan) an object which Makwela as a youngster did numerous times in her young years of exploring her new environments, she continued having fun playing on top of trees, rocks & even game drive vehicles.

Thus the word Ma-kwela gave her a special personal meaning.

Makwela female was born in 1993 in the Western Sector of the Sabi-Sand Game Reserve bordering the world renowned world heritage site Kruger National Park South Africa!

Her father’s name was Mbombi a very stocky dominant male leopard in the area.

After she went from area to area to try & establish her own territory she finally set up a large territory within the dominant male’s territory called the Wallingford male also called Wallies.

Although leopards are true cats they don’t live social lives such as lions who live in a pride but instead they are strictly solitary & extremely territorial which means that the females don’t share territories & thus leopards will continuously scent mark their territory boundaries & use vocalisation to keep their nemesis at bay, male leopards do the same towards each other thus males also keep other males out of their areas.

However female leopard territories are smaller than male territories & a few females will occupy the same territory of a male leopard but they will still pursue a solitary lifestyle, thus seeing a male & female leopard together is an extremely rare sight to witness & will probably mean that they are only together due to the female being on heat which mostly lasts for about 4-6 days depending on the specific female.

This kind of “get together” has no sweet or caring affection but rather an aggressive time spent purely due to the continuation of the next generation for the species & to secure the domination of the male over the females.

After about 95-100 days the female will give birth on average to 2 or 3 tiny cubs, in a very secluded area chosen by the mother, most of the time only 1 cub makes it to the age of 6 months & then hopefully into adulthood.

Cubs are born blind & are fully dependant on the mother’s care.

The cubs’ biggest danger of being killed at a young age, are intruding male leopards, hyenas, lions, large baboons & even African pythons.

Makwela had a very hard life with raising her cubs, which is one of the major reasons that had made her such a remarkable mother & female leopard.

This rosetted cat had numerous other female leopards & lion prides as rivalries which she miraculously protected her precious cubs from, from being killed.

Out of about 12 known litters which is a very high litter rate for female leopards generally only 6 cubs made it to adulthood.

Her first known cub in 1999/2000 that made it to adulthood is her son Xikwenga (Skwenga), meaning crocodile, he was not as relaxed & used to the vehicles or to humans in the vehicles as his mom.

He eventually left the area of his mom & headed up north to establish his own territory in the far north.

In late 2001 Makwela gave birth to 3 tiny little cubs, little did she know then what legacy she will raise, this remarkable litter gave everyone utmost pleasures in viewing 3 leopard cubs growing up & their mother doing her utmost best to insure their survival in the harsh & dangerous territory she occupied. Keeping their bellies filled wasn’t an easy task at all.

This is where Makwela’s amazing hunting skills amazed everyone. She took down small prey such as Duiker (antelope) young Impala & fully grown Impala (antelope) regularly of which Duikers were her favourite prey but she gained lots of respect by taking down prey such as fully grown Kudu, young Kudu (Antelope), young hippo’s & young Giraffes over 2 m tall.

She also once protected a baby Duiker from being killed by a troop of baboons which is unusual but motherly instincts prevailed.

The 3 cubs were named Xindile (Sindile), Mbiri & Tsonga in the time their mother chased them out of her territory to find their own territory & to spread their wings so to speak.

This also resulted in Makwela losing parts of her territory to her offspring and as this often happen, it puts pressure on the females even though they are related they still continue with their solitary existence.

Xindile moved far away after a few serious physical fights with her mother, she succeeded to establish her own large territory & has been very successful with raising her own offspring.

Xindile means the “saved one” due to a snare that had to be removed from her neck.

Mbiri which means “two” which referred to the distinctive 2-and-2 spot patterns above her last whisker line on her upper lips which is used in leopard identification by guides. She also had numerous clashes with her mom to leave the area & she moved away eventually & once she established her own territory she raised a few litters of her own. The most relaxed cub she raised was called Metsi (Water).

Tsonga was the very quiet cub, the skittish or shy cub, she hardly got used to the vehicles.

She retreated to the far South & she wasn’t seen again after she left, presumably she became so elusive which leopards are so renowned for & with them being the masters of camouflage she eluded us to date.

In the meantime Makwela fell pregnant again by the Wallingford male & gave birth to 2 cubs but they didn’t make it to even a year due to them being killed by another intruding male leopard.

Shortly after she fell pregnant again by the intruding male & gave birth to 2 cubs, 1 got killed at the age of about 4 weeks by a hyena & the other cub a male got to the age of about 14 months before he was killed by lions.

In 2004 she gave birth to only 1 cub, he was a funny but brave little fluffy bundle of joy, although not as relaxed as his previous sisters, he produced stunning sightings & he even attacked a few lionesses on his own at a very young age which is why he was named Chaba, the brave one. He ventured further north of the reserve & eventually into Kruger National Park, presumably living a brave successful life.

Makwela had lots of pressure from her own offspring such as Mbiri & lost a huge part of her territory to Mbiri & other dominant female leopards in the area.

She often ventured outside the protected area of the reserve which wasn’t ideal for her nor for viewing her, luckily she returned by herself.

Eventually she fell pregnant again & gave birth to 2 cubs in 2006, these 2 cubs were very relaxed with the vehicles from a very young age, but unfortunately only 1 cub survived into adulthood.

This cub was probably one of her best raised offspring, she gave us absolute stunning sightings & she was a very active cub & brave, named Hlabankunzi after a dam in the area that she frequented in the beginning of her territory establishing.

When she became old enough to part her ways from her mother she established her own territory adjacent to Makwela’s territory & also claimed some of her mother’s territory putting more pressure on Makwela.

Hlabankunzi & Makwela had a few face to face encounters which resulted in a few big scars on both cats but this is totally normal for adult female leopards to fight even though they are related, it’s all about maintaining territory.

Hlabankunzi eventually fell pregnant & gave birth to 2 cubs. These 2 fluffy bundles presented stunning sightings.

Unfortunately they didn’t make it into adulthood presumably due to lions killing them.

Makwela in the meantime had a few litters in between but with all the pressure of intruding male & female leopards they didn’t make it either & Makwela got pushed further west into her territory which forced Makwela to regularly retreat outside the reserve.

With her last litter which was 1 cub she tried her utmost best to protect her cub & thus felt more safe from other leopards, lion & hyena attacks & less territory pressure outside the reserve which in the end cost her life!

We will never know for sure what happened to this wonderful successful mother leopard but it was presumed that she was killed by villagers who didn’t know her & that was purely to protect their utterly needed livestock.

The legendary Makwela died in May 2009 & her legacy still lives on in Metsi her granddaughter & her 2 offspring which were 2 male cubs. Metsi’s current female cub, Xindile & her cubs, Hlabankunzi & Thlangisa are still going strong & hopefully will survive into adulthood.

At Makwela Transfrontier Safaris we dedicate the legendary tribute to Makwela in our hearts & we are passionate about nature & the dedicated safari experiences you will encounter with us in this land we call Africa, the Home of Makwela the Legendary leopard!