As usual, I was reading the Londolozi blog with great interest. Perhaps with more interest than normal since I was supposed to be there last week and wanted to see what I was missing.
Nick Sim’s April 1st blog about a mother leopard, her newly independent daughter and her new cub clearly struck a chord as it jostled my memory about a sighting I had last year with similar dynamics.
With Ranger Nick Kleer and tracker Ray Mabelane leading the way, we set out to find the Ximungwe leopard. After a thorough but unsuccessful search we went to the Sand River to look instead for the Nhlanguleni leopard and/or her two female cubs.
Born to the Tutlwa female in early-mid 2011, the Nhlanguleni female spent her formative months (and years) in and around the Sand River.
Never being ones to give up we made the crossing north as Ray promised, “There is always a leopard in the Leadwood Forest.”
We were making our way on the track on the south side of the Manyelethi River just prior to the turn north to the Leadwood Forest when Ray raised his arm. He pointed across the riverbed where there are a few prominent trees on the bend of the river. It was several hundred yards away in tall grass but Ray said there was a leopard at the base of the tree and another in the canopy (how he saw this I will never know).
We made our way into the riverbed and noticed that the leopard on the ground was very agitated, often looking back across to the other side of the river. The scene was a bit hectic with the other leopard high up in the tree. Was this a male and female? What was happening across the river? After some to-ing and fro-ing, Nick and Ray identified the leopards as the Ingrid Dam female (on the ground) and the recently independent Ingrid Dam Young Female (in the tree).
The Ingrid Dam Female made several passes of the riverbed to investigate the other side and seeming source of the anxiety. Perhaps it was a male and the two females were vying for attention? On the third trip to the south side of the Manyelethi, we caught a brief glimpse of a brown flash in the tall grass at the river’s edge. At last mystery solved. The Ingrid Dam Female had a cub and her older daughter had encroached back on “home territory.”
The Ingrid Dam Young Female came down from the tree and crossed the riverbed and actually began contact calling for the cub. We have no way of knowing but assumed that this was not a threatening action. However, mom had had enough. For the next 20 minutes, the Ingrid Dam Female growled, hissed, bellowed and chased her daughter, forcing her to eventually move off and not return.
Afterwards, we were treated to an afternoon with the Ingrid Dam Female and her cub. I have been fortunate to see many leopard cubs at Londolozi, but never had I been witness to such a relaxed mom and young cub (estimated at 3 months old) out in the open. They indulged us with some great photographic opportunities as well as providing an amazing memory.