I am always reticent to share my most memorable sightings. I get concerned that I may cause a ripple of FOMO (fear of missing out) to those not with me at the time or may set up exceptionally high expectations for those guests planning to visit Londolozi. But then I remember that we are not separate, we are all connected and that every time I hear of someone else’s joyous moments, in some way they become mine too.  When I hear good news it makes my heart warm; when I witness the success of another I feel my spirit lift and when I read about someone else’s remarkable experience, in a sense I am given the chance to live that experience too. And so with that in mind, I’d like to share one of my best sightings with you.

James Tyrrell and I were out on drive the other day and were heading along a densely vegetated road that runs parallel to a drainage line when we caught sight of a female leopard lounging on a low rocky outcrop. Carefully we turned and maneuvered the vehicle off the road and upon getting a closer look, were astonished to be met by three additional little faces peeking up from behind her. We had found the Mashaba female and her three very infrequently seen little cubs.

mashaba leopard cubs, AA

The incredible sight that met us as we approached the rocky outcrop. These youngsters inquisitively peered around their mother at us before losing interest in our presence rather quickly.

It was one of those moments when absolutely everything you could wish for comes together at once. A leopard lying out in the open, her young cubs inquisitively watching from nearby and if that’s not enough, there were three of them.

Although leopards are capable of having three cubs, they much more commonly only have two youngsters. This mere fact made the moment all the more profound.

Mashaba leopard cub, AA

Female leopards are still required to hunt and defend their territories while raising cubs and therefore tend to have their hands full, so to speak. Despite trying to get some much-needed rest, these youngsters, suckled from and wrestled with their mother for the entire time that we were with them.

We sat beaming with joy, completely astounded by our luck. Together we have a combined 16 years of working in the bush between us and yet neither of us could recall having had such an amazing cub sighting before. The cubs soon lost interest in us and began playing with each other and their mother. Her tail became the ultimate prize for a game of catch and her stomach a makeshift trampoline for the cubs to clamber over. On a few occasions, she snapped and snarled at them, losing her temper with the three highly rambunctious little beings.

Mashaba female leopard, AA

There were times when the Mashaba female showed her irritation, particularly when the cubs were chewing her tail. This behaviour can be seen in the video featured below as well.

Mashaba female leopard, AA

She would also gently but firmly grab the cubs by the scruff of their necks to move them or discipline them when their antics got too much to handle.

The funniest was watching the three of them fight for a spot to suckle from. They make a growling noise far bigger than you’d imagine their small bodies can muster and were not afraid to hand one another off with claws extended for their chance to drink.

Mashaba female leopard, AA

One of the cubs shrieks its frustration at not finding a spot to suckle from. With three cubs, there is nothing peaceful about feeding time.

Just a few days ago, we discovered the sad news that one of the Nkoveni female leopard’s cubs had been killed by the Flat Rock male. This will be reported on by Nick Kleer in a blog due to be published in the next few days. Although nothing can ever really make news like that better, it was beautiful to realise in that moment at the rocky outcrop that these two adult females share a bloodline. The Mashaba female is the mother of the Nkoveni female and so we hope that despite the Nkoveni female’s sad loss, there is still hope that the Mashaba female will be able to grow the family tree.

5
Nkoveni 2:2 Female
2012 - present

A young female that lives to the east and south of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.

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Nkoveni 2:2 Female

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

We are assuming that the father of the Mashaba female’s cubs is the Flat Rock male as he was the only male covering her territory prior to their birth and was seen mating with the Mashaba female a few months back. With this male steadily expanding his territory around the Sand River, both east and west of the Londolozi camps, we can only hope that he is able to protect these youngsters from any new males moving into the area looking to take over the now-deceased Piva male’s territory.

4
Flat Rock 3:2 Male
2013 - present

A leopard who took advantage of the death of the 4:4 male in 2016 to grab territory to the west of the Londolozi camps.

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Flat Rock 3:2 Male

Lineage
Unknown
Identification
markings
Timeline
16 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
0 known
Litters
1 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist
7
Piva 3:2 Male
2010 - 2017

Directly descended from the original mother leopard and therefore part of the royal lineage of Londolozi.

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Piva 3:2 Male

Lineage
Mother Leopard
Identification
markings
Timeline
27 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
2 known
Litters
1 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist
mashaba female leopard, AA

The Mashaba female sits up to scan from her vantage point. Although the cubs are preoccupied only with feeding and playing, she needs to make sure that there are no threats to her cubs in the vicinity.

As we have seen time and time again, the lives of young leopards (in fact any young creature out here) are incredibly fragile but we have witnessed three cubs being successfully raised to independence before, with the well-known Nanga female being one of that leap. Can you just imagine if the Mashaba female were able to achieve this same feat?

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
19 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
2 known
Litters
4 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist
mashaba leopard and cubs, AA

A bundle of spots. Sometimes it can get confusing as to where one cub starts and the next one ends as they rough and tumble over one another.

During that sighting, those cubs were doing nothing more than being themselves and yet, without knowing it, they gave James and me so much. For me, there is something so inherently generous and abundant about a moment like that. Like a gift given straight to us from nature. If you’d like to see them in action, click on the video below captured by Grant Rodewijk a few days ago.

The narratives we tell ourselves about the world are the ones that shape our experience of it and impact where we see our place in it. Because of this, I believe we should be re-crafting those narratives to share the stories that perpetuate joy. And so even if you’ve inadvertently been given FOMO through this post, I’m not sure I can apologise 😉 Hopefully, rather than setting up high expectations, sharing this moment lays a seed of hope in you that you too may be privileged enough to see something remarkable like this in real life one day. Feel free to spread the joy abundantly by sharing this post with those whose day and outlook you’d like to brighten.

Filed under Leopards Wildlife

Involved Leopards

Mashaba 3:3 Female

Mashaba 3:3 Female

Spotted this leopard?
You've seen this leopard
Nkoveni 2:2 Female

Nkoveni 2:2 Female

Spotted this leopard?
You've seen this leopard
Nanga 4:3 Female

Nanga 4:3 Female

Spotted this leopard?
You've seen this leopard
Flat Rock 3:2 Male

Flat Rock 3:2 Male

Spotted this leopard?
You've seen this leopard
Piva 3:2 Male

Piva 3:2 Male

Spotted this leopard?
You've seen this leopard

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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24 Comments

on Spring’s Gift: Introducing New Leopard Cubs

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Marinda Drake

I love your beautiful blogs Amy. The first leopard we viewed at Londolozi was the Mashaba female, then the Vomba young female. She gave us lovely sughtings last year with the Mashaba young female. This is so special with the three cubs.

Michael & Terri Klauber

Amy, We are so excited to see the cubs! What a magical sighting! The images are amazing and the video is so beautiful – seeing Mashaba playing with one of the cubs while the other two wrestle with each other is so special. We hope that all three make it through! Thank you!

Mary Moy

I am so thrilled to see the Mashaba Female with her cubs

Denise Vouri

Amazing! Thank you so much for sharing the story and beautiful photos/video of mom and her cubs. Whilst I’ve spent quality time with leopards in both RSA and Botswana, I’ve yet to experience the joy of watching the little ones. Next time…….

S.W. Tsang

love it ! thank u

Mary Beth Wheeler

When we were there in late April, we saw Mashaba also mate with Inyathini and Piva! She “covered all her bases,” for sure and will be able to keep her beautiful cubs safe! Wonderful video, too!!

Amy Attenborough

Thanks for the added info Mary Beth, that’s really great to hear! Let’s just hope that there are no new males that push into the area with the ever-changing dynamics. Many thanks, Amy

Judy Hayden

That was a beautiful video, made me smile. I pray for safety of those babies and mom. Keep up the wonderful work. I look forward to the next interesting, exciting blog from you guys over there.

Ian Hall

Does anybody remember the days of Fuji Velvia or Ektachrome, where you could only take 36 shots , it did make you think of composition and waiting for the right shot?
Magic moment though

Darlene Knott

Oh, my, how exciting, Amy! Leopards are my favorite animal. Three cubs–what a blessing! Thanks for the photos and the video taken by Grant! Love these!

Mj Bradley

What a sighting!! Another once in a lifetime! Thank you for sharing, and I hope all three grow to independence

Karen Millman

Thank you soooo much for posting this! The Mashaba female was my first leopard sighting last month and it is such a treat to not only hear about her, but to SEE how she AND her cubs are doing! As you stated, there is a true connection between all of us and them. Please keep the updates coming! Thank you!!

Susan Strauss

I am watching this sitting in a restaurant alternating between laughing and crying….un-frickin-believable!!! My girl+3 ❤️❤️❤️❤️

Susan Strauss

I read this tonight sitting in a bar, waiting for my friends to arrive for happy hour…alternating between beaming smiles and tears of wonder. It only became my experience by you sharing. My girl +3❤️❤️❤️❤️

Amy Attenborough

I knew you’d love this one Susan 😉

Mauricia Neeley

what an incredible & special sighting. thanks for sharing it with us.

Wendy Hawkins

Thank you so much Amy & Grant for sharing these awesome pictures! I hope & pray that they will be kept safe to grow up big & strong in that wild world. What an amazing mother she is & the patience with those three lively youngsters is going to keep her busy.

Rich Laburn

Amazing video and pictures. Thank you for sharing

Patricia Johnson

Thanks again Amy for sharing such a great story and pictures. I love see the world of Londolozi through your eyes. Hope to see you, the mother and her cubs in November.

Callum Evans

Now that has got to be one of the most special sightings I’ve heard of!! Everything just looks so perfect. It’s great to know that the Mashaba Female has a new litter of cubs, and what’s more there’s three!! It would be an incredible achievement if all three survive to independence. I have heard of it being achieved in the Mara, so if it is possible there it’s possible in Londolozi! Wishing them all good luck!

Bruce Finocchio

Does anyone know the sex of Mashaba’s three cubs?

Amy Attenborough

Hi Bruce. No, we’re not sure yet. It’s still very hard to say when they’re so young. Thanks, Amy

Leonie De Young

Beautiful blog Amy and so glad you and Grant had the privilege of seeing these adorable babies and their mother. I pray they will all make it to adulthood. Thanks for sharing the pics and video with us.

Eulalia Angédu

The Mashaba female and her cubs are simply amazing.Am always thrilled to get their articles and pics.Thank you Amy.Keep them coming please.

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