Two leopards that we haven’t seen much until the last few months have been the Senegal Bush Male and the Three Rivers female so to have had them together mating for the last few days has made for some spectacular viewing. They were found one afternoon right in the central parts of Londolozi which is quite far out of the normal range of the Three Rivers female’s territory which lies mostly to the east of our traversing area and with the disappearance of the Inyathini male the Senegal Bush male has settled in that same area as well. They have spent about four days together now from what we can tell between intermittent sightings of them as well as their tracks.
It is not unusual for a female leopard to temporarily move out of her usual territory in order to seek out a mate and they will do this as an insurance strategy to protect their future cubs. She may mate with a few different males that surround her territory because that way the males will all be invested in the cubs survival because they believe them to be their own. These mating bouts often last up to five days at a time with both the male and female moving around together and mating at regular intervals to ensure the best chance of success.
It’s fascinating to watch this instinct kick in with this young female leopard who we spent a lot of time with when she was a cub. She was born to the Xidulu female back in May 2016 and as a cub, her and her brother were seen along the river downstream from the Londolozi camps. She was forced into an early independance when her mother was killed by the Avoca male lions a year after she was born. She is yet to have a litter of her own which make these sightings even more exciting because if the mating is successful in three months time we could be seeing her denning with cubs.
Watching mating leopards is quite the spectacle as it can be quite aggressive and loud. The female is often the one who initiates the mating bout by walking up to where the male is lying and then moving back and forth in front of him rubbing her tail in his face. He will often bite down on her neck and this can cause her to spin around and try and swat him with her paw. In addition to all of the physicality involved I love the stories behind the different individuals involved and with the the Three Rivers female it’s no different. She is part of one of the strongest and most well-documented lineage lines that we have been following here at Londolozi for the last four decades. Her grandmother is the Sunset Bend female and is related to the Mashaba, Ximungwe, Nkoveni, Nhlanguleni, Finfoot, Nkuwa and Island female who all occupy different territories around the reserve.