We haven’t written much about the Mashaba female or her cub recently, although a couple of photos have snuck into the regular Week in Pictures posts. The cub, now around eight months old, is thriving, and the Mashaba female herself has been making more than frequent kills, benefitting enormously from the high density of impala herds within her territory.
Although during the impala lambing season (which is just ending now) the majority of leopard kills are the more vulnerable lambs themselves, the Mashaba female has not limited herself to simply going after the infants, and she will regularly take down adults as well.
Lucien Beaumont was a Londolozi guide for many years and recently returned as a private guide for a week-long stint over New Year. His visit coincided with the Mashaba female taking her cub to an impala ewe kill, which they fed on for 36 hours before unfortunately being robbed by hyenas.
The cub is still very much in its developmental stages, taking every opportunity to climb trees and chase whatever it can. Although we are yet to witness the cub making a kill, we are confident it is making attempts on smaller bushveld inhabitants like mongooses and lizards.
While still dependant on its mother, an inexperienced cub can be a nuisance, as its strength and coordination are not yet developed enough to enable it to properly manipulate a kill in a tree. A kill being dropped is often the result when a cub is feeding on it, and if a rival predator such as a hyena is waiting below, the meal will be lost.
Although this wasn’t quite the case in the sighting Lucien spent time in, the cub was certainly more of a hindrance than a help, excitedly running around the Mashaba female and getting in her way as she dragged the kill to the base of a tall marula tree, and even launching itself onto the kill while the mother hoisted it.
The morning after these photos were taken the kill was on the ground again, most likely dropped by the cub, although we can’t be too sure. Deciding to leave it on the ground for the day, the two leopards stayed nearby, but unfortunately as evening set in, two hyenas, most likely attracted by the smell of the carcass, ran in to steal the kill. The Mashaba female was resting just too far away to be able to run in and re-hoist it in time, and the hyenas devoured what was left of it in mere minutes…
Photographs taken by Lucien Beaumont, Private Guide