The Vomba female is an elusive leopard at the best of times. Tracks in the dust, the alarm calls of monkeys or the distant bark of a Bushbuck in the Sand River are often the only clues to her presence. A glimpse of her golden coat before she disappears into the thickets around camp is the most we can generally hope for.
It was a bold move to look for this leopard on New Year’s Day, but with high risk can come high reward, and she was spotted by tracker Enoch Mkhansi less than 500m from camp. After watching her for a few minutes we realized she was not alone, as the cub that she has been secluding deep in the riverine thickets for so long tentatively poked its head out to see just who and what we were.
This cub has been skittish in the past, but now at roughly 5 or 6 months old, it is slowly starting to relax around the vehicles. The habituation process has been slowed as we so rarely encounter the little one.
The cub was calm enough to allow us to carefully maneouver two vehicles through the spike-thorn thickets for an amazing view of mother and youngster. For half an hour they played together in the rough-and-tumble games that will help the cub develop muscles and hone the instincts that will make it such an efficient killer in the years to come.
Although we are not 100% sure, we believe the cub to be a young male, based on its size at this age.
Hopefully, with the cub becoming increasingly habituated to the vehicles, we will enjoy further sightings of him and Vomba together.
Photographed by James Tyrrell
Filmed and Written by Helen Young