It was just around the time lockdown started that we suspected the Nkoveni female had given birth, but it wasn’t until a couple of days ago that we finally caught a glimpse of her cub. Although the Nkoveni female herself used to make up a substantial amount of Londolozi’s leopard viewing; her territory was centred around the Londolozi camps, and we used to see her both to our east and west. However, just as her daughter the Plaque Rock female reached independence, we saw a steady eastward shift in territory from the Nkoveni female until one sighting a week was a lot.
The Ximungwe female also filled in a chunk of the territory left behind, so the Plaque Rock female didn’t have it all her own way, and has also had to shift east.
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.
I’m getting off topic here, which is that even though we knew the Nkoveni female had likely given birth, there were only a limited number of places she might be stashing a litter.
The Sand River was always the most likely area; the Nkoveni female herself was born in a dens debris thicket, and she has birthed three previous litters there. We had also checked most of the prominent drainage lines in the area extensively, with no results, so the River was looking like the last option.
Finally on Sunday, we received reports that a female leopard and cub had been spotted on a prominent boulder in the middle of the Sand River.
We were there at first light the next morning to see if we could see anything, and within 30 seconds of arriving at the spot, glimpsed the ears of the cub hiding amongst some rocks behind a reedbed. Within a few minutes the Nkoveni female herself had appeared, and both mother and cub made their way up onto the largest boulder.
It was only for a few brief minutes in the sunshine , and then the pair descended into the reedbeds once again, where we lost sight of them.
The cub appears to be around 10-12 weeks old, which means it should be getting taken to kills any day, if it hasn’t already.
The female was seen in the same place again this morning, which suggests she is using the den at least semi-permanently, so imagine we’ll be spending a lot more time in the area in the near future.