Londolozi’s renowned family of leopards mourns the
loss of the 3:4 female and the end of a seventeen year
era. In 1979, the original ‘Mother’ leopard was the
first to become relaxed in the presence of game viewing
vehicles. Her story and those of her prominent offspring
of nine litters have brought guests back year after year
to view her extended family. Of the six generations of
leopards that originate from the Mother, her last
remaining granddaughter, the 3:4 female has come to the
end of her 17 year life.
Londolozi’s general manager, Chris Kane Berman,
remembers his first encounter with 3:4. She was ten days
old with pale blue eyes staring out from the safety of a
rocky outcrop where she was born. Stoff was twenty years
old. “I have witnessed her decline over the past 18
months with nostalgia, sadness and great joy for a life
well lived. She has touched so many lives including our
staff and guests who have returned year on year to pay
her homage” said Stoff.
The response from our guests and staff to 3:4’s
passing has been profound. Messages from past rangers,
guests and other members of the extended Londolozi
family expressing their memories and feelings about this
magnificent leopard have been pouring in. This week the
Londolozi rangers are wearing black ribbons pinned to
their shirts – a Shangane tradition usually reserved for
the passing of close family members and friends. At
11h20 on the 25 July 2009 all activities at Londolozi
will cease for one minute of silence in her memory.
Please join us wherever you are and share the moment. On
the Southern Cross Koppies in the heart of the Londolozi
traversing area, three small, leopard cubs were born
last week - and the circle of life continues it’s
Gillian van Houten:
I am with you in spirit, shed tears with you and
empathize with your sense of loss. A relationship with a
wild creature is beyond expression. It belongs in
another realm, one which we yearn for but have only
rare glimpses of. Everyone who knew 3/4 has been blessed
with this insight...feel gratitude and it'll come around
again...wait and see..
Farewell my Old Friend
The words come hard and the tears
flow easily, but each tear shed is filled to the brim
with memories of a life privileged to have shared with
the ThreeFour female.
She was my mother, she was my
teacher, she was my friend, she was my daughter, she is
my soul mate.
My heart swells with joy as we
find her. I came here to see her again not knowing how
close it was to her final hours in this physical world
and was told she hadn’t been seen for a while, and that
I shouldn’t raise my hopes of seeing her. I replied that
to see just a track would be enough.
A dear friend drove me out to her
territory, and there she was, right next to the road,
waiting patiently for me. So close to the place where I
first followed her tracks on foot and found her with her
first son, trying to persuade him to go off on his own
and take his rightful place in the world as his sister
had already done. The circle is almost complete.
I look into her eyes now – as she
nears the end of this life and approaches the next, and
the light in them has not dimmed. It shines as brightly,
if not more so, as the first day I was privileged enough
to witness its pure beauty.
I see a coat faded with time and
remember how gold and lustrous it was in her youth. Her
beauty is something seldom seen in the physical world. I
have not seen it’s likeness before or since.
But the graying of her coat is not
something for us fickle humans to regret. It adds
dimensions to her beauty rather than detract from it. It
tells a story of a life lived longer, happier and fuller
than the golden coat of youth ever could – free under
the golden rays of the Londolozi sun.
I marvel still at how she
tolerates our presence – at how she allows us this
window into her secret life. Even in these final days –
she still lets us find her. I know that if she wanted to
remain hidden, the best trackers at Londolozi, for all
their brilliance, they are some of the best in the
world, would not be able to find her - such is the way
with leopards. But ThreeFour allowed us to find her time
and time again. She gave us the rare opportunity to
witness her life unfold – she shared her joys, of a
simple rainfall after a long dry winter, of those first
golden rays of morning on her coat after a cold winter
night, of a full belly gracefully draped over the branch
of a Jackalberry after a successful kill.
She shared her sorrows with us –
cubs lost, her mourning to touching to bear.
She shared her hunts with us, over
and over and over again, even though our presence there,
as sensitive to her needs as we always could be, must
have impacted negatively on her success. She bore no
grudge, showed no sign of anger, just tolerance and
Every mark on her body adds to the
incredible inner beauty that this leopard radiates.
Each nick in her ear tells a
The kink in her tail tells a
The scars on her face tell of a
desperate and fierce fight with a male leopard almost
twice her size, to try and save her young.
When I think of her territory, I
cannot think of an empty one, waiting to be filled with
some other. Her spirit compels me to think of the rocks
in the Tugwaan that radiate with the warmth of the
memory of her body, basking on them in the morning sun.
Her energy and warmth will be part of those rocks
I am compelled to think of the
many trees that bear the imprint of her claws as she
climbed their branches to survey what was hers, or to
drag a kill away from other predators. I have placed my
fingers into those same sacred marks many times in the
past and drawn energy from them.
Those imprints remain to tell her
story, for those who care to look for them.
And the sands of the Tugwaan – No
longer will they be pressed down with the imprint of her
four feet, but so many grains have been touched by her
over the years, her energy lingers in the spin of their
atoms still. Each one carries a part of her inside them
forever – just as they carry a part of her mother, who
touched them before her. Her daughter walks the same
paths now and touches those same grains of sand. They
are all a part of ThreeFour’s story. It is a story that
continues still, through the lives of her cubs and their
And so though the tears pour down
my cheeks now, and I can barely see to write, I cannot
say goodbye, but simply - Fare Well my friend.
May your passing to what lies
beyond be a peaceful one. We will meet again in that
place that you travel to – my soul is bound to yours.
I end with the words of the poet
Stephen Cummings – ThreeFour would have liked them.
“Do not stand at my grave and
I am not there I do not sleep.
I am the thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle Autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush,
Of quiet birds I circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there, I did not die.”