About a year ago I filmed the Maxabeni 3:2 young male leopard catch and haul a small duiker up a Marula tree. At one year of age, this sub-adult male leopard was showing the first signs of a hunter. Now at two years of age, this leopard and his brother, the Maxabeni 3:3 young male, have both grown into magnificent male leopards. They move with attitude and act with confidence, until the hyenas arrive that is….
These precocious brothers owe their personalities to their mother, the Maxabeni female. A small female whose contribution to the leopard populations of Londolozi and the surrounding areas is as enduring as her will to survive. Independent from 10 months of age, she has come full circle and mastered the environment which is now her territory. Her mastery extends from survival to territorial defence to hunting. So efficient is her hunting ability that she was recently able to bring down two Kudu bulls in rapid succession.
Leaving one kudu for her sons to feed on, the young males were quick to consume as much as possible. 2 years of life had taught these leopards to be well aware that bushveld is ripe with scavengers desperate to chase them off such a prized meal. They had been taught well as a single hyena arrived shortly after their first bout of feeding. And so the steady process of stealing the prey from these two leopards began.
Meanwhile, 80 meters north of this drama, the Maxabeni female lay quietly at the base of a thicket. Picking apart her kill she fed completely uninterrupted. Looking up for a brief moment her big round eyes caught mine. They were sharp and focused but had the soft familiarity of a wise sage. She had lost kills herself and she had done battle with hyenas before, but she was now teaching those lessons to her offspring. Not by telling them or taking control but by letting them experience the necessary pitfalls of life in this wild world, so that they may gain the same wisdom as she.
Later that day when the hyenas disappeared and her two sons came down from the tree, she let them sit at the carcass with her. Who knows what she communicated but I’m sure it would be to tell them once again what they need to know when they no longer have her to rely on….