We had found tracks of a male leopard near Shingalana Dam, right in the centre of Londolozi. The tracks were leading us through the thicket line along the Maxabene riverbed. Shadrack Mkhabela and I were following on foot while Sandros Sihlangu and Eckson Sibuyi scouted a little further ahead with their Land Rover.
Shadrack followed the tracks along a prominent game trail to where he found the remains of a duiker kill on the ground, with some meat still on it, so we knew the leopard that made it, most likely the male we had been following, had to be close by.
Driving down into the Maxabene riverbed itself, we were surprised to come across the Tamboti female lying in the sand. We had been following male tracks, so what was this female doing here. Maybe the male had robbed her kill?
She got up after a few minutes and began to walk away from where the kill was. She paused briefly to drink at a small pan before continuing along the thicket edge.
Climbing a large termite mound, she started to give a soft contact call and our excitement levels leaped, as we knew she was calling her cub. The cub didn’t come for a while though, and the female stopped calling for a few minutes to snarl at a Natal spurfowl that had climbed the termite mound near her.
After a wait of about 15 minutes, we could hear an answering call coming from a dense spikethorn thicket, and within moments, the female was joined on the mound by her cub.
What followed was an amazing sighting in which mother and daughter chased each other through pans, up mounds and over and around wallows. It was wonderful spending time with such animated animals!
Surprisingly, the leopards didn’t head back to the kill after that. We weren’t sure if the Tamboti female even knew the kill was there. Perhaps she had been robbed by the male whose tracks we had seen, and knew she didn’t stand much chance of recovering any of the kill. Perhaps the presence of a male had made the cub nervous, which is why it had taken it so long to come out.
With a number of questions left unanswered, we were still thrilled to have spent such an amazing morning with the two leopards in what appeared to be the highest of spirits.
The Tamboti female inhabits the south-eastern sections of Londolozi, having a large part of her territory along the Maxabene Riverbed.