About a year ago we stumbled upon a newborn litter of the Mashaba female. I kick myself now as I didn’t have my camera on me, but the sight of three tiny, blind cubs that were probably only 24 hours old will stay in my memory forever. It struck me recently that at that moment, we may well have been viewing the youngest leopards in the world! That’s certainly quite a claim, but it’s not like there are millions of leopards out there, producing all the time
The Mashaba female’s latest cub, although not 24 hours old when discovered, was certainly the youngest on Londolozi when we found it (that we know of), maybe in the Sabi Sand Reserve, and on an outside chance, maybe in the Kruger National Park. Out of a population estimated at being around 200, let’s say half are female, maybe two thirds of those are of breeding age, and that gives us about 700 females. A 10-day old cub (which we estimated it to be, as from appearances it had only just opened its eyes for the first time) is certainly amongst the smallest in the greater reserve.
None of this is particularly important; I just find it interesting.
A superb tracking effort by Tracker Academy trainer Innocent Ngwenya, in which he backtracked the Mashaba female for over two kilometres – found the den in a small undercut in the banks of the Maxabene Riverbed.
The Senegal Bush male has been seen at or near the den on a couple of occasions and the cub is still fine, which certainly wouldn’t be the case if he wasn’t the father, or at least didn’t think he was and hadn’t mated with the Mashaba female. The leopardess has since moved the cub to a different sitre a couple of hundred metres away that she has used previously. This den offers better seclusion for the cub which is fantastic, but visually it’s impossible to see either leopard if they are in there, which makes monitoring them slightly trickier.
Either way, after losing multiple litters of three over the last couple of years, we hope that this single cub might be the Mashaba female’s next success story since the Ximungwe female made it to independence…
The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best-known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the vehicles.
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.