The average gestation of a leopard is 100 days. Now, after feverishly going through the sightings book, I can confirm that the Tutlwa Female was seen mating with the Marthly Male 104 days ago! Very few leopards, out here in the wild, live by the book so it is to be expected that it is not exactly spot on. I however, was fortunate enough to see her on day 103, and can personally confirm that she is heavily pregnant. As she walked through the green summer grass her fully laden belly slowed her down. Her every move was cumbersome and exaggerated. She looked tired, but still oozed natural beauty.
Tutlwa was born back in 2006, mothered by the golden Vomba Female. Her first attempt at motherhood was unsuccessful as she denned a single cub in the Munghen drainage line (Aug 2010). We were gifted with a handful of special sightings, before this cute cub disappeared.
Her next litter was a vast improvement. Back in mid 2011 she gave birth to two cubs, a male and a female. They were denned in the middle of the Sand River floodplain. The result was that we hardly ever got to see these cubs. In their youth they encountered very few cars and were hardly viewed at all. They never fully relaxed. As time marched on and they became more and more independant so they moved out of the river system and into the crests, rocky outcrops and clearings. It was here that we were given the opportunity to find them and slowly try habituate them to the cars. This has been partially succesful. Both animals are still being viewed in their mothers territory, but are still considered two of the more shy leopards at Londolozi.
And so we await for the birth of her third litter. It may be a while until we get to see these little creatures, as they will undoubtedly be hidden away. We will not push her and look for her den site as we want to allow her time and space during this most intimate of moments. We want to ensure that the bond between mother and cub/s is cemented.
When the time is right she will reveal them!
The extended Londolozi family wishes the Tutlwa Female best of luck during this time. Maybe we will have a January 1st baby to celebrate!
Written and photographed by Adam Bannister