It has been two months since our last update on the badly injured Ndzanzeni female. During that time she has made a remarkable recovery, and not only is her back left leg apparently healed, but she has continued to successfully provide for her ever-growing son, to the point where it looks like she may be about to push him into independence.
Leopards – and indeed most large carnivores – are remarkably resilient, with tremendous powers of regeneration. As long as they can maintain their food intake, they can recover from injuries that would probably prove fatal to a herbivore. The Ndzanzeni female, despite not being able to put any weight on her injured leg for well over two months, was nevertheless still catching bushbuck and impala with startling regularity. Her cub, who is knocking on the door of independence and is actually significantly larger than his mother now, would have been eating a substantial part of each of her kills, effectively halving the value she would gain from each hunting attempt, which makes her recovery that much more remarkable.
The video below is just to show the female walking normally, with no trace of a limp.
The cub has been seen being left on his own for increasingly longer periods of time, and any day now his mother simply won’t come back for him. This, ultimately, is how young leopards make that big step; no one comes to take them to a freshly hoisted impala, and the realisation sinks in that they’re on their own. They simply wait and wait, getting hungrier and hungrier, and eventually hunger will override the impulse to wait for the return of their mother, forcing them to start venturing out to try and find food.
With the young male becoming independent, the Ndzanzeni female will most likely start mating soon. Should she give birth to female cubs, it will be an invaluable lifeline to the royal lineage of the Leopards of Londolozi.