RIP Thandi, Our Local Legend: Silvan Safari Blog

Life in the African bush is unforgiving and harsh, as uncomfortable as this reality may be. The phrase “survival of the fittest” rings true. However, “survival of the fittest, luckiest and smartest” is probably more accurate, even if the latter doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as easily.

The experiences we enjoy from the back of a safari vehicle live long in our hearts and minds.

It’s easy to forget that the animals on safari we feel so attached to and grow to cherish are at risk every day. And they could leave us just as soon as they arrive.

In Memory of Thandi, Queen of Djuma


Thandi was an absolutely captivating beauty, Image Credit: Rhino Africa

With this somewhat sobering thought, we announce the passing of Thandi, a local legend in the northern Sabi Sand. Thandi was among our more regularly sighted leopards at Silvan and is woven into the region’s history by virtue of her ongoing legacy. A favourite among guests and guides alike, Thandi was often fondly referred to as the Queen of Djuma. Her story is quite something and one we’ll attempt to tell in this tribute.

The Tale of Thandi


Thandi was an excellent hunter, seen here with a Banded Mongoose, Image Credit: Rhino Africa

Born in late 2006 to Karula, a fabled leopard of the Sabi Sand in her own right, Thandi was one of two cubs. She was initially christened Saseka. However, the name didn’t quite stick, so she was renamed “Thandi”, which means “beloved”. And she most certainly did justice to this name!

Although among the smaller female leopards in the northern Sabi Sand, Thandi made up for her stature with a fierce character and strong will. She earned a degree of fame by being a recurring “cast member” on the popular Wild Earth virtual safari series. Whether she knew it or not, the Queen of Djuma undoubtedly sparked a flame in many African wildlife lovers’ hearts worldwide.

Until her mother’s disappearance in 2017, Thandi’s territory occupied the Buffelshoek and Eastern regions of the northern Sabi Sand. After that, she was seen more frequently in the eastern sections of the Djuma area, where she raised her daughter Tlalamba. In recent times, Thandi was seen regularly around Chitwa Chitwa and Torchwood, where her son Maribye kept her company.

The Legacy Left by Thandi

Thandi and her son Maribye

Thandi and the most recent of her offspring, her son, Maribye, Image Credit: Nigel Ridge

It seems strange to judge a leopard’s success by the amount of offspring she sired. But, it’s nature’s harshest scale of judgement. Aside from the countless memories she blessed us and our guests with, Thandi was a successful mother. She managed to raise six cubs from seven litters to independence between 2010 and 2020, and among them are some familiar faces.

Kuchava, a female leopard, playing in the grass with her cub

Thandi’s daughter, Kuchava, playing in the grass with her cub, Image Credit: Michelle Welvering

These include Tlalamba, Maribye, Kuchava (currently raising a cub of her own), Thamba, Wabayiza and Bahuti. They all continue our Queen’s legacy in the Sabi Sand, and we hope they will keep on delighting guests just like their illustrious mother did.

Thandi’s Unfortunate Passing


Gone but never forgotten. Thandi will live on in our hearts forever, Image Credit: Agnès Escriva Photographies

On a game drive in early April, there were reports of an injured leopard to the east of Arathusa. A team from our neighbours at Arathusa went to investigate, and the area was closed off to game viewing vehicles to avoid stressing the leopard in question. 

Thandi was found with a large wound in her chest but still mobile and capable of climbing a tree. Whilst there has been a fair bit of speculation regarding the cause of her injury, there’s too little concrete evidence to be able to share it with you.

The following morning, attempts were made to locate her but were unsuccessful. Following an on-foot investigation by armed rangers from Arathusa the subsequent morning, Thandi’s lifeless body was found quite some distance from where she was last seen.

To respect Mother Nature’s process and the cycle of all living things, Thandi’s body was left undisturbed to return to the ecosystem. As our neighbours at Arathusa so eloquently stated, “From the earth we came, and to the earth, we shall return”.

With Gratitude


Thandi, the legendary leopard at Silvan, Image Credit: Rhino Africa

So, while this is a sad moment for all of us at Silvan and the entire Sabi Sand, it’s hard not to smile when we pause to think of Thandi. The countless special memories and treasured glimpses into her life she shared with us remind us just how lucky we were.

Therefore, instead of being grief-stricken and hurt by this unfortunate passing, we’re choosing to be grateful to have been blessed with the time we had with Thandi.

Rest in Peace, Thandi, our Queen of Djuma.


Thandi was easily identified by her dark markings below each eye, Image Credit: Rhino Africa

*With thanks to our friends and colleagues at Chitwa Chitwa and Arathusa who so graciously contributed to telling Thandi’s story.

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