There is no argument that tiny, blue-eyed leopard cubs are heart melters. Mewling, fumbling about in long grass with spots so close together they look grey… I don’t know anyone that can resist a newborn leopard. This is why what I’m about to say may come as quite a shock. In the last little while I’ve realised that ‘teenage’ leopard cubs are even better.

xidulu

The Xidulu female leopard and her two cubs play on a fallen tree. The grass is long at the moment and natural platforms like this provide great vantage points.

16
Xidulu 2:3 Female
2001 - present

The daughter of Sunsetbend female, is named Xidulu which means termite mound in Shangaan.

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Xidulu 2:3 Female

Lineage
Sunsetbend
Identification
markings
Timeline
15 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
1 known
Litters
1 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist

The Xidulu female leopard has two cubs that are about one year old. Anywhere between now and a year from now, these cubs will become independent, leaving their mother for good. This means that they’re at an age where they’re quite markedly honing their skills so that once they leave their mother they’ll be capable of looking after themselves. This includes keeping themselves safe, finding water, making kills and navigating their way to establishing a new territory for themselves. The last few game drives we have been returning to this leap, who remained in the same vicinity for a few days to feed on a young impala kill. For me these cubs are at such an amazing age because they’re independent enough to be adventurous and young enough to be energetic and playful.

xidulu

The young female leopard watches a dove that has come down to drink at the other end of the water hole. At this age, it seems like any movement catches their eye and any movement seems alluring enough to stalk.

The male and female cubs would wonder down to a waterhole to drink on their own without the safety of their mother. They’d scale up the Marula trees dotted on the crest to satisfy their curiosity. They’d chase each other in the long grass, stalk wildebeest far too big for them to even begin catching and hiss at hyenas lurking below the tree they were feeding in. We watched them rest together in a tangle of spots to keep warm in the cold, drizzly weather. And they played with and groomed one another. They seemed to have competitions as to how high they could get above each other on fallen stumps and stalked any bird brazen enough to land in their proximity.

Xidulu

The young male cub watches a herd of wildebeest from the fork of a Marula tree. These cubs have a huge amount of energy meaning they scale up and down trees more regularly than the adults.

xidulu

The young Xidulu female watches movement in the grass ahead of her. These two cubs spend hours chasing each other backwards and forwards through the long grass.

xidulu

The young male leopard wanders down to the waterhole for a drink. Although very young leopard cubs will only move with their mother, these cubs are quite comfortable to wander off some distance on their own.

xidulu

The young female followed a short while later. Both of them approached the waterhole warily, looking out for crocodiles. It was also a windy day, which affects their senses as well as the movement of the water and may have contributed to their nervousness.

xidulu

One of the youngsters nuzzles and grooms its mother. Leopards are meticulous groomers but being solitary animals, there are places that are difficult to reach. While she has cubs, the Xidulu female allows them to clean these hard-to-reach spots.

We were then lucky enough to see the Nanga female and her even younger cub a few days later. Being about six months old, this cub is also starting to get rather rambunctious. The video below is of the young female chasing and playing with her mother. You can imagine that despite having motherly duties, the Nanga female leopard still has to hunt, patrol her territory and find time to rest. So in those times when she is otherwise pre-occupied, this cub doesn’t have a play mate. Essentially being solitary animals, I doubt being alone really bothers the youngster but from my perspective, life doesn’t look like nearly as much fun. Although the cub can stalk birds and squirrels, climb trees and wile away the time, one can’t help but notice how she seems to take advantage of the times when her mother is around to play. We’ve had countless leopards that have grown up as single cubs and been incredibly successful hunters as adults but I do also think that the constant play cubs coming from bigger litters are exposed to must be an advantage when it comes to honing their skills and muscle development.

8
Nanga 4:3 Female
2009 - present

The Nanga female was born to the Nyelethi 4:4 female in 2009 as part of a litter of three.

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Nanga 4:3 Female

Lineage
Saseka Female
Identification
markings
Timeline
17 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
2 known
Litters
4 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist

As always, we have to be careful not to anthropomorphise. And I am well aware that I’ll never really know if bigger litters have more fun than single cubs growing up. The one thing I am sure of though is that these ‘teenage’ cubs have wend their way into my heart with their antics. I look forward to the months of rambunctious play coming our way as Londolozi’s leopard cubs grow up.

Involved Leopards

Nanga 4:3 Female

Nanga 4:3 Female

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Xidulu 2:3 Female

Xidulu 2:3 Female

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About the Author

Amy Attenborough

Media Team

Amy has a rich field-guiding history, having spent time at both Phinda and Ngala Game Reserves. This diversity of past guiding locations brought her an intimate understanding of different biomes across South Africa, and she immediately began making a name for herself as ...

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3 Comments

on ‘Teenage’ Leopards Have More Fun

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Cameron
Guest

Video?

Amy Attenborough

Hi Cameron. Have another look at the blog, it should be there now. We were having technical difficulties earlier but it should be sorted now.. Thanks for flagging it though!

Lea
Guest

Thanks for the lovely blog Amy. The cubs truly are adorable and we pray they will make it to adulthood. It is very interesting to see them in their stages from birth to adulthood and watch the changes in features. Beautiful cats. Loved the video.

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