A week ago we saw three adult leopards in the same sighting. The scene resembled something of a soap opera with two sisters (same mother but different litters) competing for the attention of one male. When it comes to solitary animals like leopards, what happens during an interaction like this and what brings them all together in one place?

Well, about a week prior to this, the Flat Rock male had been seen mating with the Nkoveni female. He was, in fact, responsible for killing her cubs a few weeks before that. This may seem crazy that she would tolerate a male that had done this to her offspring, but it is, in fact, typical behaviour. By killing cubs that aren’t his, the male forces the female back into oestrus, allowing him to mate and sire cubs of his own. She, in turn, recognises that he is the dominant male, and is the one she needs to mate with to reproduce again.

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
45 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
2 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
20 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
0 known
Litters
1 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist

Her younger sister, the Mashaba young female, was then found a few mornings later mating with the Flat Rock male. When leopards mate, they make an unmistakably loud noise, which is what we assume drew the Nkoveni female into the area to investigate. The first reports on the morning that the trio was found was that the Flat Rock male was only interested in the Mashaba Young female, but when I arrived in the sighting, he was mating with the Nkoveni female.

Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.

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Mashaba 5:3 Young Female

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

During my time with them, the male mated with both females on a number of occasions.

What was really interesting to note was how close the two females got to each other whilst keeping it fairly amicable. Although they showed subtle signs of aggression like snapping or snarling at each other, they were in general quite tolerant. One female would mate then turn and head for the patch of shade that her sister was lying in. That sister would then get up and head towards the male and they’d yo-yo back and forward like this for hours. On a few occasions, the mating would happen with the second female not even moving off at all.

Both females were born to the Mashaba Female (albeit three years apart) and one wonders if this had anything to do with it. Another possible reason is that both of the females were out of their territories somewhat. It is likely that they thus felt less threatened by each other’s presence.

All we know for sure is that you can read as many textbooks as you like but it’s only when you really spend time with these animals that you start to get proper insights into their behaviour.

Involved Leopards

Mashaba 5:3 Young Female

Mashaba 5:3 Young Female

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Nkoveni 2:2 Female

Nkoveni 2:2 Female

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Flat Rock 3:2 Male

Flat Rock 3:2 Male

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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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24 Comments

on What Happens When Two Female Leopards Want The Same Male?

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Mike Ryan

This is a great blog Amy. You may really recall we saw almost the same behaviour this time last year at the end of the runway with their Mother Mashaba mating with the Piva male and the Nkoveni looking on. It seemed as though Nkoveni was almost asking permission from the mother to move in but this was not given and she would not tolerate it. However the Nkoveni has tolerated her sister.

Amy Attenborough

Yes Mike, you’re absolutely right!! So interesting how the lives of these animals intersect!

Prem Wilson

WoW!! So awesome 3 Leopards are all together be cool…. I love my favorite Leopards! Thank you for the update and great video Londolozi

Amy Attenborough

Thanks Prem!!

Marinda Drake

It sounds like a soap opera Amy. It just show that there is always something different to see that you do not usually expect in the bush.

Amy Attenborough

True Marinda! What was your most unusual sighting during your stay a few days back?

Marinda Drake

Amy we had a wonderful time at Londolozi. The Tambotie female and her male cub was one of the best leopard sightings we had in a long time. Got wonderful video footage of the cub stalking and playing with his mother. The cheetah in the open areas was another fantastic sighting.

Amy Attenborough

So glad to hear it Marinda! Look forward to having you back!

Darlene Knott

How very interesting, Amy! I cannot imagine how tired the male got! Hoping there are cubs soon. Thanks for sharing, Amy.

Amy Attenborough

True Darlene 🙂 Luckily it seems he was with both the females for just one full day that we know of…

Joanne Wadsworth

Just when one thinks they’ve seen it all! Although rarely seen, the real reasons for the females tolerating each other’s presence certainly may be the reasons you’ve given…also it’s the season and those primal urges become primary. For me this was personal since the young Mashaba 5:3 is my very favorite! She is now on her own, staking a territory and mating….wonderful to see life unfold for her successfully! Very interesting blog and video, Amy.

Amy Attenborough

Thanks Joanne! So glad to hear she is your favourite. We have actually been talking as a team about how she will need to be re-named shortly because of all this territorial behaviour. We’ll keep you posted!

Denise Vouri

That’s an amazing video Amy. I’ve only ever seen lions mating and it was one male and female- three leopards is incredible, especially when two sisters are involved. It will be interesting to see if both sisters end up with cubs…. will the Flat Rock male accept all the cubs?

You have the best job!! Until your next adventure……

Amy Attenborough

Hi Denise! Thanks so much! Ya he definitely would. The male is not at all concerned that the females are rivals, he is only concerned that the maximum number of the females in his territory sire his cubs. 🙂

Mary Beth Wheeler

What an amazing sighting, Amy! If she has cubs, will that be the first for the Mashaba Young Female?

Amy Attenborough

Thanks Mary Beth! Yes, it would be. She is still a young leopard only aged 2,5. We will actually be renaming her soon due to all her mating and territorial behaviour…

Henry Kago

… I really wonder what would happen if another male chances upon the 3 mating leopards; I know a male fight would ensue but would the 2 females stick around to wait for the outcome ??

Amy Attenborough

Yes, I think that’s probably what would happen Henry. It’s such an unusual scenario that I imagine the females would be just as interested in the outcome as you are 🙂

Callum Evans

To see a wild leopard is extraordinary enough but to see three adult leopards together and mating has to be one of the most incredible things one can experience on a safari!! Unbelievable!!

I was actually lucky enough to encounter a leopard myself today, but in one of the most unlikely places: on foot in Disa Kloof at Harold Porter Botanical Gardens!! I was walking along the path by myself and the leopard was right there 7 metres ahead. In a split second it turned and ran up the cliff. The fact that I saw a Cape leopard so close is still taking time to sink in!!

Amy Attenborough

That is amazing Callum! I’m so excited for you!!

Callum Evans

ThankS Amy, it was absolutely unbelievable and a bit nerve-wracking, considering I was 7 metres away from a leopard on foot!

Michael & Terri Klauber

Just goes to show that leopard and lion drama is much more exciting than all those “housewives” reality shows on TV! 😉

Amy Attenborough

Haha true that Michael and Terri!

Judy Hayden

Talk about have your cake and eat it to!!!! I think I saw that type of behavior on the beach one day. LOL. Mating is a lot shorter than I thought. Great video. The females know that that is their jobs to produce off spring. They are all just awww inspiring beauty. Love this

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