Happy endings, it seems, are a rarity in the bush.

The reality out here is that life is fragile, and whether you are a dung beetle, impala lamb or leopard cub, the odds of you making it to maturity are not good. In fact the only animals that have a more than even chance of survival are probably the calves of hippos, rhinos and elephant, who are generally not worth it for the predators to have a go at, as they stick so close to their dangerous and fiercely protective mothers.

The cubs of the Nkoveni female are sadly the latest casualties in the ongoing leopard drama that plays out on Londolozi and its surrounds.

The Nkoveni female was graced an extra chunk of territory through the death of the Xidulu female (killed by the Avoca male lions), but in an ironic twist of fate, the same lions killed the Piva male leopard, which put her cubs under threat from new males.

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.

U
Spotted this leopard?
You've seen this leopard
23 sightings by Members
q

Nkoveni 2:2 Female

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

Exactly a month ago, the first of the cubs was killed by the Flat Rock male leopard. In a post that examined the possible repercussions of the Piva male’s death, we speculated that there was a slim chance that the Flat Rock male might be accepting of the Nkoveni cubs, seeing as how he had mated with her a number of months before. Sadly this was not the case, and in a fight over an impala kill on the banks of the Sand River the first of the cubs was killed by the marauding male.

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.

U
Spotted this leopard?
You've seen this leopard
13 sightings by Members
q

Flat Rock 3:2 Male

Lineage
Unknown
Identification
markings
Timeline
18 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.

U
Spotted this leopard?
You've seen this leopard
19 sightings by Members
q

Piva 3:2 Male

Lineage
Mother Leopard
Identification
markings
Timeline
30 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
2 known
Litters
1 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist

This would be the third female’s litter that the Flat Rock male has been responsible for killing since arriving on Londolozi in late 2016 (the other two being the Mashaba female and Nhlanguleni females’ cubs).

The aftermath of that incident is recounted in a post by Nick Kleer, and saw the Nkoveni female mating with the Flat Rock male for a number of successive days.

The Flat Rock male (left) and the Nkoveni female during an aggressive mating bout in the Sand River. Photograph by Nick Kleer

Over the following weeks a couple of sightings of the remaining cub were had, but at the same time the Flat Rock male was being seen more and more in the same stretches of river. The Inyathini male, at the same time, was also moving up from the south, and now seems to have taken over the exact old patrol routes of the Piva male, at least in the eastern sections of the Piva male’s old territory.

9
Inyathini 3:3 Male
2008 - present

Another leopard who originated in the Kruger National Park, he has established a large territory in the south eastern areas of Londolozi.

U
Spotted this leopard?
You've seen this leopard
10 sightings by Members
q

Inyathini 3:3 Male

Lineage
Unknown
Identification
markings
Timeline
20 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
0 known
Litters
1 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist

The last fortnight has been without a single sighting of the second Nkoveni cub, and the female herself has been seen mating with the Flat Rock male again. Although it might just be too early to pronounce the second cub officially dead, the outlook is bleak.

Although we still hope for some signs of the cub, it seems as though – at least for the next few months until she births again – the sightings of the Nkoveni female will just be her on her own.

The question of whether or not wild animals like leopards mourn for their lost offspring is a tricky and highly debatable one, as the tendency is always to interpret signs of distress as grief, when they are not necessarily interchangeable terms, and grief itself is more of a human construct. We’ll leave that one for another day, but the fact is the Nkoveni female, in the latest sightings of her, has not had her cub in tow.

As sad as it may be for us that the cubs are gone, this female leopard’s day-to-day efforts to hunt and hold territory continue unchecked.

Filed under Leopards Wildlife

Involved Leopards

Nkoveni 2:2 Female

Nkoveni 2:2 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
Inyathini 3:3 Male

Inyathini 3:3 Male

Spotted this leopard?
You've seen this leopard

About the Author

James Tyrrell

Photographic Guide/Media Team

James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills were well developed, and he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team as a result. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the photographic skills ...

View James's profile

15 Comments

on Have the Nkoveni Cubs Been Killed?

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Marinda Drake

It is so sad. Please correct me if I am wrong. The Nkoveni female has never raised a cub to maturity? How does the male know it is not his cubs? Does he know he did not mate with the female? Does he sense it?

James Tyrrell

Hi Marinda,
That is correct, this was her second litter (the first was never seen), so she has yet to raise a cub to maturity. I don’t know the exact mechanism by which a male recognizes his cubs but I imagine a large part of it is olfactory, and he would most likely need to be aware of them from a relatively early age. It’s an interesting question though; maybe we should do a blog on it going forward?
When are you and Des coming for a visit?
Best regards
James

Marinda Drake

Hi James. We are visiting from the 30th of November. Can’t wait.

Jill Larone

Very sad news James. The Flat Rock male has certainly wreaked much sadness in his arrival on Londolozi, with the loss of so many cubs. It will be interesting to see if he can hold this new territory that he’s taken over if the older (and larger?) Inyathini male decides to expand his territory.

James Tyrrell

Hi Jill,
I haven’t seen the Inyathini and Flat Rock males next to each other myself, but I know a couple of the rangers did see them having a bit of a scrap about a week ago. As far as I can make out the Inyathini male is slightly larger, but having said that, the Flat Rock male is still young (not yet 5 years old) so may increase in size over the next year or so. Males are generally conflict averse if they already have stablished territories, and since those both these males occupy prime river frontage at the moment, I’d be surprised if there is any significant expansion or interaction between the two over the next while.
Best regards
James

Mary Beth Wheeler

It’s been only 6 months since our last visit and so much has changed within the leopard ‘community’ – Xidulu, her male cub, Piva, Nkoveni’s 2 cubs, one of Tamboti’s cubs gone and probably more I don’t know of. So sad, so difficult to accept nature’s reality…

James Tyrrell

Hi Mary Beth,
Indeed, in terms of a shift in dynamics, and a total restructuring in the leopard population, this last year has certainly been one of the most tumultuous since I’ve been here, especially because much of the change has occurred in the territories close to camp, among our more prominent territorial individuals.
When are you back for another visit?
Best regards
James

Mary Beth Wheeler

Bob & I will be back in June, James, looking forward to see what nature has wrought by then! Will be following the blog daily in the meantime – keep up all the great work!

Carolyn Whitaker

Thank you for another excellent post in dealing with a delicate subject, James. I think most of us who have witnessed these beautiful creatures become attached to them and their histories. I am thankful that nature allows for so many happy beginnings to offset the sad endings.

James Tyrrell

Thanks for the comments Carolyn,
It is definitely the attachments we form that make it a sad situation to deal with, but the reality is that this type of thing has been going on for thousands of years, and if we do get attached, Loss is the risk we have to accept…
Best Regards
James

Wendy Hawkins

Oh my gosh this is so sad! I have no words, except the bush is so harsh at times, but just so amazing too!!!

Darlene Knott

Oh, how very sad!😢 This happens so often, but is still hard to imagine. Thanks for the information though, James.

Denise Vouri

This was a fascinating blog from you, even though the content was not without some sadness. Nature provides us with a window into the lives of wild animals and whilst we may not like the view at times, it is as written. It seems the Flat Rock make is making his case to become the dominant male in the area. I’m wondering if after mating with the Nkoveni female, and hopefully the resulting birth of cubs, will he accept them and allow her to finally raise them to adulthood?

Callum Evans

I agree that it’s too early to tell if the cub is gone, but I also agree that the signs aren’t good. I really hope that she’s still alive, otherwise it would be a very sad end to this part of the Nkoveni female’s story. Are there any suspected causes for the cubs disappearance?

Eulalia Angédu

It is so sad the the Flat Rock make has since wanted to claim himself ‘King’ with a fierce territory taking over the land and eliminating lives.James please do continue updating us on the whereabouts of the cubs,yes we as humans may want to help the continuity of the generation but our hands are tied,i guess we have to let nature take care of itself what is meant to be will be.If the little ones are gone or alive we surely hope for the best in the existences.Thanks for this update. Keep them coming James.I always look forward to your blog,very commendable work.

Connect with Londolozi

Follow Us

Sign up for our newsletter

One moment...
+
Add Profile