The seasons are changing at Londolozi. There is a chill in the morning air and the metamorphism of the bush from bright greens to deep golds, as the water from our summer rains dries, is more apparent each day.  The Impala rutting season, where mature impala males begin to compete for breeding rights over females, is almost over. The predators – so tuned into the subtle changes in their environment – have been well aware of this and taken full advantage of the male impalas’ lack of awareness as their focus is drawn towards females and a good fight (I suspect a trait shared by most males in the animal kingdom)!

The Vomba female, now 16 years old and still as beautiful as ever, with her distinctive gold coat and green eyes, has welcomed this year’s rutting season especially as it seems her young male cub has inherited his father’s genes and is growing very big, very quickly!  Consider this footage of the cub filmed just 8 short months ago, with the picture below:

Vomba Female - Rich Laburn

The Vomba Female’s cub is growing at a rapid rate! – Rich Laburn

We found these 2 leopards as they crossed the airstrip just after sunrise and it was clear from the cub’s exuberance as he jogged along next to his mother that he was very excited for his next meal that his mother seemed to be taking him to. This lively behaviour seemed to rub off on the Vomba female and she joined him in a moment of youthful play in a fallen over Marula tree.

Vomba Female - Rich Laburn

The Vomba Female, 16 years and still as beautiful as ever before – Rich Laburn

Vomba's cub with an impala carcass - Bennet Mathonsi

This particular image was taken on the 10th April as Vomba’s cub fed on an impala carcass.  If we compare the size of the cub now, it is obvious to see what a difference one month can make – Bennet Mathonsi

Vomba Female Cub - Rich Laburn

The cub spends much of this time with his mother in the Bushbuck drainage line, offering some spectacular sightings – Rich Laburn

After following the pair for a long time through the thick bush we were rewarded by the sight of the horns of a very large dead impala male poking out from a Pteracarpus bush. A full grown impala male outweighs a female leopard substantially, a very impressive kill, and more than enough for both mother and son to feast on for a few days.

Vomba Female - Rich Laburn

Although it is too early to tell whether this male will be able to establish himself a territory on Londolozi, one thing for sure is that he is going to grow up to be a very big leopard – Rich Laburn

With bellies full, it was time for some mother/son bonding time and they took it in turn to groom each other and share a few hours of undisturbed rest, a temporary moment of contentment.

The Vomba Female playing with her cub - Bennet Mathonsi

The Vomba Female grooms her cub – Bennet Mathonsi

Vomba Female - Rich Laburn

The photographic potential of these two animals is outstanding!  Here JV captures a snapshot of the pair as they cross east towards the airstrip – Rich Laburn

Written by Helen Young
Photographed by: Bennet Mathonsi and Rich Laburn
Filmed by: Rich Laburn

About the Author

Helen Young

Ranger

Helen guided at Londolozi from 2007 to 2013, coming to the reserve after pursuing her post-graduate studies in conservation management. A natural story-teller with a fondness for clapping loudly round the fire during guitar nights, Helen now works as head researcher and content ...

View Helen's profile

4 Comments

on The Growth of a Leopard Cub

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Evette Hartig
Guest

I am so pleased to see not only is Vomba’s cub still alive, but how much he has grown. By the time we get there in August he should be one big boy!

Wendy Hawkins
Guest

Thank you guys for those pictures of this magnificent female and her “youngster”! He is going to be one big leopard and hope that you will keep us homies posted?
Enjoy

Merle
Guest

You read my mind as I was reading your fabulous account…I’d love to see comparison photos to see the growth. Thank you.

JO LYNNE JONES
Guest

What better way to spend your holiday than writing eloquently about our favorite female leopard and her cub? Great idea to show the growth.
Thanks for our wonderful adventure through Londolozi and all the special sightings.
Jo Lynne and Fred

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