This is just a brief update, not a full disclosure.
The Mashaba female has been hiding her cubs in the Sand River in front of Pioneer Camp, on and off for the last week or two. Vehicle access to the little outcrop of rocks is, unfortunately, impossible. Tracks of the female moving in and out of the river have been fresh and regularly found, but like her mother the Vomba female, she has been favouring the deep drainage lines to the south-west of camp for her hunting forays, and sightings have been infrequent. The new summer flush after the rains of a few weeks ago have thickened up the vegetation, making a leopard moving through the scrub difficult to spot. There has been no significant sighting of the mother and both cubs for a good few days.
After a scuffle between the Anderson male and the Robson’s 4:4 male (the father of the cubs) last week in which the 4:4 male was seen fleeing, concerns were raised that the new, much larger male from the north would be a major threat to the young leopards. Although the 4:4 male seemed to be holding off the incursions of the Gowrie male from the far bank of the Sand River, the Anderson male seems like a much greater threat now that the Gowrie male has disappeared.
No sign has been had of the Anderson male since that incident, yet dangers to young leopard cubs are plentiful in this area. Snakes, lions, hyenas are but a few. The Nottens female even lost a cub to a Martial eagle once.
So it was with a heavy heart that ranger Andrea Campbell bumped into the Mashaba female with just a single cub near the access to Pioneer Camp during morning drive. Both individuals seemed fairly agitated, and the single cub kept looking back the way it had come, suggesting either pursuit by another animal or something dangerous back in that direction.
Tracks of the female and cub moved away from the area and back into the river that afternoon, but no sign was seen of either, and we are pretty sure the mother is once more stashing the cub in the river in front of Pioneer Camp where vehicles cannot follow.
Although the outlook is bleak, it is not uncommon for leopard cubs to be separated during an incident and reunite with their mother at a later stage. It is too early to draw any firm conclusions about the missing cub’s fate.
We will have to wait and watch, and hope…
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell, Londolozi Ranger