I will never forget the first time I had the privilege of watching Leopards mating here on Londolozi. It was a first for me in my Guiding career and in my life. It was June 2013, where the Marthly Male and the Tutlwa female engaged in their fascinating business of mating. A bout that lasts several days, whereby the male and female remain together and mate on many occasions each hour, it is recorded that leopards can mate up to 100 times per day. So whilst spending time with these two Leopards on this particular day, we witnessed the rare act in broad daylight. The most amazing thing about this story though, is the fact that from this exact mating bout, the Tutlwa female fell pregnant and is now raising a litter she conceived on that day many months ago.
For interest sakes and some background information on the Tutlwa female, here is some further information:
Date of Birth: March 2006
Mother: Vomba 3:2 female
Father: Camp Pan 4:3 Male
August 2010 – 1 cub, deceased
May/June 2011 – 2 cubs, 1 male, 1 female, both currently independent
January 2013 – 2 cubs, both lost in the floods of 2013 in the Manyelethi
September 2013 – 2 cubs, 1 male, 1 female, currently still dependent.
So this is some amazing news for us as a Ranging and Tracking team as well as for future and current guests. There has been much discussion as to whether these cubs would be relaxed around vehicles or not, as both of her previous successfully raised cubs are very nervous of vehicles. These 2 in mention, the May/June 2011 litter were raised in the Sand River in front of the camps and subsequently spent little to no time with vehicles at all growing up, and only brief glimpses of these cubs were experienced. The current litter being raised by this female had the same initial routine. Born somewhere in the river, spent 3 months without being seen, a few quick glimpses and relatively nervous Leopards as a result. The stats have not looked great for us, until yesterday. Ranger Talley Smith and tracker Freddy Ngobeni spent some time in the north in search of this little family, and got lucky in finding them on an Impala kill, in the clearing directly in front of Varty Camp. This meant there were these 2 little cubs, in an open clearing, feeding under a small thicket. A perfect opportunity to see how these cubs behave around vehicles.
The results were amazing, and we were able to put 5 vehicles through the sighting yesterday, and each vehicle managed a view of the cubs. Currently they are not the most photogenic cubs around, as they are still nervous, but amazing to see how much more relaxed they have become. A slow process of habituation is underway, but the more time we spend with them the better. We look forward to some great sighting in the future.
Below are photographs of each cub and their spot patterns as we have seen so far.
Written and Photographed by: Mike Sutherland