On our first trip to Londolozi in February 2010, we had a wonderful sighting of the Dudley Riverbank leopard and her 7 month old male cub (3:3). It was fascinating to hear from our ranger Graeme Marais about her history – she was a great granddaughter of Londolozi’s original Mother Leopard. She had had a poor success rate of raising cubs – she had lost 8 cubs in 8 years, including one which fell from a tree into a hyena clan below. One that did reach adulthood, the 5:5 male, had actually been brought up by her own mother, the 3:4 female, after becoming separated from the DRB female after feeding on a kill.
Two years and 2 months later, I was sitting on the vehicle in the rain by a rocky outcrop. Our ranger Sandros had just explained that the Dudley Riverbank female now had a very young cub stashed in the rocks, and hopefully would return to it soon. We waited patiently, and were delighted when she suddenly appeared from nowhere (how do all cats do that?). She made soft calling sounds and after a few minutes a tiny cub, only just over 1 month old, appeared from the densite. The cub suckled then clambered playfully all over her mother, earning herself a thorough washing as we watched, totally entranced.
The only downside was my photos were terrible (though I still keep 1 blurred image). There is a lovely photo of her taken a couple of months later though on a blog:
I worried about this cub, especially given her mother’s history and that she (the mother) was approaching 14 years old. I scoured the weekly sightings and blog, hoping at least for the absence of bad news. However their territory right down in the south of Londolozi, in an area of dense vegetation, meant they were seldom seen. On my annual trips I would hear that all was well, but I never managed to see them.
And then – 4 and a half years later – success! That tiny cub was now a beautiful adult, with 2 cubs of her own. We found her on her own initially, and I was overjoyed to see her again, now called the Ndzanzeni female. Two days later, Alfie took us to her den site, and luckily she was there and nursing her cubs, which he estimated to be about 2 months old. We then watched the cubs play and I really felt I had come full circle. Apparently she had lost a previous litter of 2, and of the litter we saw, the female cub didn’t survive.
However, the male cub has now turned 2 and is creating his own story, exhibiting behaviour beyond his years and size – looking to mate, and sadly killing the Mashaba female’s cubs and most recently trying to stare down a hippo! (TWIP #362) On my last visit in early October with Alfie I was lucky enough to see him twice. And so the dynasty continues!