Happy endings, it seems, are a rarity in the bush.
The reality out here is that life is fragile, and whether you are a dung beetle, impala lamb or leopard cub, the odds of you making it to maturity are not good. In fact the only animals that have a more than even chance of survival are probably the calves of hippos, rhinos and elephant, who are generally not worth it for the predators to have a go at, as they stick so close to their dangerous and fiercely protective mothers.
The cubs of the Nkoveni female are sadly the latest casualties in the ongoing leopard drama that plays out on Londolozi and its surrounds.
A young female that lives to the east and south of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.
Exactly a month ago, the first of the cubs was killed by the Flat Rock male leopard. In a post that examined the possible repercussions of the Piva male’s death, we speculated that there was a slim chance that the Flat Rock male might be accepting of the Nkoveni cubs, seeing as how he had mated with her a number of months before. Sadly this was not the case, and in a fight over an impala kill on the banks of the Sand River the first of the cubs was killed by the marauding male.
A leopard who took advantage of the death of the 4:4 male in 2016 to grab territory to the west of the Londolozi camps.
Directly descended from the original mother leopard and therefore part of the royal lineage of Londolozi.
The aftermath of that incident is recounted in a post by Nick Kleer, and saw the Nkoveni female mating with the Flat Rock male for a number of successive days.
Over the following weeks a couple of sightings of the remaining cub were had, but at the same time the Flat Rock male was being seen more and more in the same stretches of river. The Inyathini male, at the same time, was also moving up from the south, and now seems to have taken over the exact old patrol routes of the Piva male, at least in the eastern sections of the Piva male’s old territory.
Another leopard who originated in the Kruger National Park, he has established a large territory in the south eastern areas of Londolozi.
The last fortnight has been without a single sighting of the second Nkoveni cub, and the female herself has been seen mating with the Flat Rock male again. Although it might just be too early to pronounce the second cub officially dead, the outlook is bleak.
The question of whether or not wild animals like leopards mourn for their lost offspring is a tricky and highly debatable one, as the tendency is always to interpret signs of distress as grief, when they are not necessarily interchangeable terms, and grief itself is more of a human construct. We’ll leave that one for another day, but the fact is the Nkoveni female, in the latest sightings of her, has not had her cub in tow.
As sad as it may be for us that the cubs are gone, this female leopard’s day-to-day efforts to hunt and hold territory continue unchecked.