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Leopard Characters

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Zaza - Introduction

22 March 2013

The more than 20 leopards we have dealt with at Shayamanzi since 2001 were all very special. Shayamanzi’s theme song The eyes of secret, written by Rudi Claase, is dedicated to all Shayamanzi’s leopards, those in the camps, the wild leopards on the farm and all the leopards that have been let free at Shayamanzi and left the farm into the Waterberg.

Each leopard that we have handled has rendered a contribution towards unravelling the mystery surrounding leopards. Zaza and her sister Ziana arrived at Shayamanzi in March 2007. Both sisters were approximately 11 years old. They weren´t tame enough for one to enter their camp, but they weren´t shy of people either. Since March 2007 there have been many pleasant, sad, beautiful, angry, anxious, worried, interesting, day, night, summer, winter, romantic, moody film star moments and incidents that will in time be described under Leopard characters.

  


  

Anatomy

Body

Zaza may have carried a few extra kilograms as a result of her comfortable life at the Leopard Kingdom, but for her age she had an amazing body. To truly appreciate her slender suppleness, one has to watch her movements in slow motion, for instance on film in The eyes of secret and the Zaza music video. Her beautiful skin covered a strong, lithe body that could jump far and high; a body that she could effortlessly pull up into a tree by digging her nails into the trunk. The grace with which she could transport her body to the top of a tree within seconds was astounding, and the balance she maintained on small, relatively thin branches would have made any ballet dancer green with envy.

A female leopard’s body has to cope with a great deal on its own: hunting, patrolling her territory, climbing trees and mountains, fleeing from danger, rolling and dancing to control the male, giving birth to a few cubs, raising them without any help, and keeping herself and her young safe, especially from people, to ensure the survival of the species. It is no wonder that these lithe, elegant ladies, that are only half the size of the males, can only survive for 12 to 15 years in nature.

The only time that I ever had the privilege of stroking Zaza’s beautiful body, was when she had to undergo treatment at Onderstepoort and was anaesthetised. While Dr Steenkamp was working on her teeth, I could make a video recording of the historic first operation performed on a leopard at that facility. At one stage while the staff were busy trying to find pipes that were long enough to reach into her stomach, I used the opportunity to stroke her skin – as if that would comfort her.

www.leopard.tv Zoy, the young, strong and attractive male found her irresistible. She only had to perform a few well-planned rolls, turns and dance steps and he would succumb to her charm literally hundreds of times a week. As they say in a certain popular song, ‘a man is not a stone ... ‘

  

Tail

Leopards use their tails to ‘write’, speak and express what they are thinking. Tail and body movements, ears, eyes, mouths and sometimes sounds all work together to speak a language that is understood by other animals, but that remains a mystery to humans – maybe because we simply do not want to understand it.

By watching Zaza’s tail movements, I could tell what she was thinking, what she was dreaming of, what she desired, what bothered her and what she was planning.

 

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