The mystery leopard from the post earlier in the week is indeed the Mashaba female. Well done to those who put either her or the Tamboti female as their guesses, they are from the same lineage and share the rich golden coat that the Sunset Bend female possessed. With no facial pictures to base a decision on, confusion between the two would be easy.
The Mashaba female and her two cubs have been moving around the deep drainage lines to the south and west of the Londolozi camps – a difficult area to track leopards in, let alone a mother attempting to hide away young cubs. Boulder clusters and a hollow leadwood log have been her preferred choices of dens so far, but as the cubs are now at an age that they can begin eating meat, her choice of hiding places is going to have to widen as she moves them more and more.
They are entering a dangerous time in their lives as they accompany their mother to kills, and will be forced to escape danger on a more regular basis as hyenas and potentially lions attempt to rob them. A hasty retreat into the trees is the best tactic, but for little cubs who are only just learning to climb properly, ‘haste’ and ‘climb’ won’t be going hand-in-hand for awhile yet. Fortunately their mother controls a relatively small territory, so she will never be too far away from them or have to lead them to too-distant hiding places.
By far the biggest danger for young cubs is male leopards that have not fathered them; these are either nomadic or neighbouring territorial males that will kill the cubs should they encounter them. Fortunately in this case, the father of the cubs (who we believe to be the newly territorial Robson’s 4:4 male) controls a section of the river that completely encompasses the territory of the Mashaba female. From the Sand River southwards to the Maxabene, this male’s range and control thereof should go a long way to ensuring the cub’s safety from other male leopards. Vagrants are always a threat (the Quarantine male featured in The Week in Pictures #189 walked little more than 100m from where the cubs were being denned) but generally do not stay in the area long.
The cubs were taken to their first kill a few days ago, and ranger Kevin Power captured this simply phenomenal footage:
The fact that Kevin was able to film this taking place, particularly the mother carrying the cub up into the tree, is phenomenal in itself. I know my hands would have been shaking far too much, knowing how unbelievably special it is to witness something like that. Well done to him for keeping steady.
With the increased hyena activity around the river and central Londolozi, primarily, we believe, due to the westward movement of the Majingilane coalition, the cubs are in for a tricky few months until their climbing skills improve. The Mashaba female, like her mother the Vomba female, is actually not renowned for hoisting kills, having preferred in the past to hide them in deep drainages or dense thickets. These days it seems she has no other option but to keep them in the trees though.
With seven cubs already having been lost on Londolozi this year (the Tutlwa female lost three while the Nanga and Tamboti females have lost two each), Mashaba’s litter are the only two that remain. Let us hope they remain as safe as possible in a dangerous world.
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell, Londolozi Ranger
Filmed By Kevin Power, Londolozi Ranger