“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” – Unknown

Leopard cubs are born after a gestation period of roughly 90-100 days and are born completely blind, and remain so for the first 10 days of their lives . They are born in concealed dens in and amongst rocks, termite mound holes, fallen and hollowed out trees and amongst very dense thickets. Their mother will potentially move them to a new den-site every few days by carrying them until they are old enough to walk alongside her (usually at around 8 weeks) which is the age that they will be introduced to meat for the first time. They will be weaned by around 4 months of age and will then be feeding exclusively on meat provided by their mother. Cubs will usually start making small kills anywhere from 6-12 months old and will usually be “abandoned” by their mother anywhere between 18 – 24 months of age according to the textbooks, but we have seen cubs leave their mothers at less than a year and survive, while others sometimes remain dependent until over the age of three.
Upon reaching independence, male and female cubs start to have very different paths. Usually a mother leopard will “surrender” a small piece of her territory for her daughter, while the male will leave the area due to the presence of dominant males.

Survival rates for leopards in their first year of life are not very high due to a number of factors and it doesn’t become any easier to survive when they lose the protection of their mothers. On top of that, the young males now have to venture into unfamiliar territories and avoid being killed by lions and other leopards. It is a very vulnerable stage of their lives and they spend a few years being nomadic and avoiding danger until they reach an age where they can challenge for a territory of their own (usually between 5-6 years).

We have recently seen the unfortunate passing of the 4:4 male, and his death sees the western side of Londolozi (to the south of the river) vacant. Who is going to take over this area is the question we’ve all been asking. Possibly the Piva male, Anderson male or the Makothini male? Well, for the time being, it is still unclaimed and the “free” territory has been filled by a young and very entertaining character.

Enter the young nomad.


Young and curious- still having the characteristics of a cub.

It is always a treat viewing a new leopard for the first time and this young male is very bold and curious, which is normal for a young male but fascinating to watch. This  male is known in the southern Sabi Sands as the Flat Rock male, as Kevin Power mentioned in a previous blog, and was born just south of the Sabi River near Lion Sands Game Reserve. He is around 3 years old and has been seen hanging around in the area that the 4:4 male used to occupy. He has already had a run-in with the Mashaba female and she seems not to be pleased with his presence, due to the fact that she may be denning cubs sired by the 4:4 male. The Mashaba young female also occupies this area and has been seen a little less since he arrived. This could also just be a coincidence, considering that she has not been on her own for very long. This new leopard may ruffle a few feathers, and is at risk as the much larger Piva male has been seen moving further west than he normally does, opening up the potential for their paths to cross in future.


The Mashaba female watches the young male move off after he chased her up this tree.

Whether or not he sticks around will remain to be seen. For now the chance of viewing this young nomad is a possibility and, if you are lucky enough to see him, you are in for a serious treat.


Scanning the surroundings before descending a tree from his hoisted kill.


After an encounter with the Mashaba female, the young male quenches his thirst in a nearby pan.



The Mashaba female makes sure the intruder is gone before she moves away from the area of the confrontation.



The newly independent Mashaba young female needs to be extra cautious now that her father no longer protects her territory.


Filed under Wildlife

Involved Leopards

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Mashaba 3:3 Female

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About the Author

Nick Kleer

Field Guide

Nick joined the Londolozi team from Thornybush Game Reserve, and immediately began revealing his photographic potential, especially in the passion with which he pursued knowledge. An almost fanatical approach to improving his photography has seen him gain a rapid understanding of all the ...

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Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Bryan Aylmer

Hi Nick, great blog post!

is this 4:4 male the same as the Robson 4:4 male?

James Tyrrell

Hi Bryan,

That’s correct, they are the same leopard.


Thanks Nick. I enjoyed the blog and enjoyed the sightings you documented above!

Kerryn Breytenbach

Great Blog and stunning photos. Thank you

Catherine Cann

I’ve just seen the most stunning photograph of a leopard carrying a cub in the December issue of Vanity Fair and wondered if I could purchase a copy to frame at home? The ad has introduced me to Londolozi and we have been thinking of a holiday/safari in South Africa and love the intimacy of your Reserve. We were lucky enough to visit Ol Pejata in Kenya, which is also a small Reserve and we had the best time, including a too close encounter with a pack of Wild African Hunting Dogs! Our children still talk about it 6 years later!

Tim Musumba

The Mashaba Female and the Mashaba Young Female are two different leopards?!

James Tyrrell

Hi Tim,

That is correct. The Mashaba Young female is the daughter of the Mashaba female. She was born in May 2015.
Once she looks as though she may be establishing territory she will be renamed as a fully independent leopard.

Carol DeSilets

Are leopards and Jaguars related

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