The hype around leopard cubs tends to focus around the younger ones.
Which female has just given birth? Where is she denning? Can we see the cubs being carried? And for good reason I suppose, as a sighting of very young leopard cubs is almost unheard of anywhere outside a few select reserves.
As evidenced by yesterday’s post, however, the lives of most small leopards are invariably fleeting. This is simply the harsh reality of the bush. And while the excitement over small cubs waxes and wanes depending on the viewing potential, certain females who happen to be raising cubs often continue to successfully operate outside of the limelight.
The Tamboti female is one such individual. Somehow not embroiled in the drama that has shaped Londolozi’s leopard population over the past year, with the most notable mark on the timeline being the death of the Piva male, she has gotten her single remaining cub to almost a year of age.
The Tamboti female inhabits the south-eastern sections of Londolozi, having a large part of her territory along the Maxabene Riverbed.
As mentioned in a post on the now-deceased Xidulu female, after they reach about 12 months old, the mortality rate of young leopard cubs drops off dramatically. They are by no means out of the woods, but for all intents and purposes, they have certainly turned a corner when it comes to their chances of reaching independence.
It’s impossible to give an exact date of the Tamboti cub’s birth, but from the size it was when we first started viewing the litter, we estimate it to have been born in late April of 2017, which means it’s coming up to its 1st birthday. Birthdays are certainly happy occasions, and in the case of this cub, the best gift it can get is its default entry into that illustrious bracket of 12-months-and-older individuals whose day-to-day survival is statistically less of a question mark.
What we will most likely see over the coming month’s are the cub’s first tentative steps towards an independent lifestyle. Hunting small mammals and birds will start becoming the norm rather than the exception, and stalking and pouncing games with its mother will be regular features of sightings in which the two of them are seen together.
A leopard of a year or older can survive much longer periods without food than a small cub, so the Tamboti female will be leaving the young female alone far more regularly.
The process of gaining independence will naturally be a gradual one as the adult spends less and less time with the cub. Only in circumstances such as those of the Xidulu cubs, in which their mother was suddenly killed, will the litter be given an abrupt shove into life without a benefactor.
As the cub approaches the one-year mark, we look forward to it joining the Ximungwe female, the Nanga young female and the Ndzanzeni young male as the next generation of Londolozi leopards.