The history of the Nhlanguleni female leopard is a bit of an up-and-down one, with long periods of no sightings, then a sudden spate of viewing as she appears on a kill, and then another lull when no one sees her for a few weeks.

It is likely, however, that we will be seeing far more of her in the coming weeks and hopefully months, as all signs indicate that she is denning a litter of cubs somewhere in the Sand River, which means that this seldom-seen female will become far more sought-after.

The Nhlanguleni female looks out from the canopy of a Sausage tree. The fact that she controls a thickly vegetated area of the Sand River means hunting opportunities are rife for this leopard, and there are more than enough trees to hoist kills safely into.

Born to the Tutlwa female in early-mid 2011, the Nhlanguleni female spent her formative months (and years) in and around the Sand River.

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Nhlanguleni 3:2 Female

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

Her last litter (which was also her first) was looking set to be a wonderful success – two out of an initial three cubs were roughly a year old and regularly being taken to kills by their mother – until the untimely death of the 4:4 male, their father and dominant male of the area.

The late 4:4 male. His death opened the way for the Flat Rock male, who killed the last litter of the Nhlanguleni female.

This rangy male was an enigma, arriving on Londolozi in the mid to latter parts of 2014 and staying mainly in the western areas.

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Robson's 4:4 Male

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

With a blank space on the map, it was only a matter of time before a new male arrived, and it did in the form of the Flat Rock male. Within a few months he had taken over the area west of the Londolozi camps and killed both the Nhlanguleni female’s cubs (as well as the Mashaba female’s new litter). This, sadly, was only to be expected. Although there are recorded cases of a female leopard keeping her offspring out of harm’s way when a new male moves in, just long enough for them to gain independence, it was not to be in this case. Males will try and kill cubs that aren’t theirs, both to bring the female back into oestrus and because they don’t want to contribute to the survival of non-related offspring.

Anyway, that’s in the past. The fact now is that after being seen mating with the Flat Rock male on numerous occasions, as well as with the Anderson male who controls the northern side of the Sand River, the Nhlanguleni female has given birth, as evidenced by suckle marks seen in a recent sighting of her.

It was roughly two months after the birth of the last litter that we first caught sight of the three cubs, but we’re hoping this time we might see them sooner.

The Nhlanguleni female repositions an impala kill she had brought her cubs to. Her last litter was very skittish, having grown up hardly seeing Land Rovers, and despite waiting for a couple of hours on this afternoon, the only view we had of them was a few brief glimpses as they skulked in the bushes nearby.

Trackers Equalizer Ndlovu and Bennet Mathonsi trailed what they suspected was the Nhlanguleni female upstream in the Sand River yesterday morning, but the tracks disappeared into an impenetrable section, at which point they deemed it prudent to discontinue the search. A female leopard with tiny cubs in thick cover is your worst nightmare to walk into on foot. What the two trackers are pretty convinced of is that it is somewhere in the rocky section of the River that the cubs are being stashed.

The pink area denotes the rough extent of the Nhlanguleni female’s territory. The blue dot is the densite where the last litter was first discovered and the black dots represent the trail of the female that the trackers followed yesterday morning.

Age-wise we suspect them to be anything up to a month, which means that it will still be a month or more before they are brought to kills, but the female is likely to move them every now and then, as dens become a liability if used for too long. This means that she may bring them out of the river, to a densite that a vehicle might be able to access, and we can get our first view of the latest additions to the Leopards of Londolozi…

Filed under Featured Leopards

Involved Leopards

Nhlanguleni 3:2 Female

Nhlanguleni 3:2 Female

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Flat Rock 3:2 Male

Flat Rock 3:2 Male

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Robson's 4:4 Male

Robson's 4:4 Male

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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

9 Comments

on Where Does a Leopard Hide Her Cubs?

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Marinda Drake

Wonderful news. The Flat rock male seems to have taken over a sizeble portion of the Sand river. Looking forward to viewing the cubs at the end of November. (If we are in luck, holding thumbs.)

Darlene Knott

Oh, how exciting! Keep us up to date on the sightings. I cannot wait to see photos!

Denise Vouri

Good luck on finding and photographing her new cubs. I’m sure they will bring much joy to all of you and your guests as there’s nothing cuter than a baby animal. Fingers crossed that the dominant males will leave them be.

Callum Evans

Fantastic! Looking forward to finding out more about these cubs! It’s interesting how they were born at roughly the same time that the Mashaba’s last litter was just killed. Hopefully these new cubs will have a better chance now considering the Flat Rock Male is their father

Mary Beth Wheeler

Some good news about leopard cubs – wonderful! Fingers crossed that they stay safe and grow up healthy and secure!

Judith Guffey

Hoping to see them in early December.

Thomas Weder

excellent news! hope to see more cubs when we will be back in August 2018! can’t wait to come to Londolozi a second time!

Jane Thomson

We were so blessed to be out with Alex and Bennet on this beautiful morning in this most lovely of locations when Bennet and Equalizer went off trailing her tracks. Secretly I was glad we didn’t see the cubs that morning, when the three lionesses emerged out of the bush a little way upstream a very short time afterwards. May the Nhlanguleni female keep her cubs safe for a while longer. We look forward to seeing photos of them when they are eventually seen.

James Tyrrell

Hi Jane,
We’re looking forward to it as well, believe me!
Best regards,
James

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