As the circle of life requires both rebirth alongside death, it is fascinating how these emotional events capture our attention and we have a strong desire to witness them.
It is not easy to witness something losing its life, but takes the understanding that it is necessary for the overall ecosystem to survive. The loss of one life sustains the next.
This blog is not going to focus on the loss of life but rather the hopes of the complete opposite.
The Xinzele female is a young leopard inhabiting the north-west of Londolozi. Over the last few weeks we have been privileged with regular viewings of her along some pretty majestic areas of the north, namely the Makomsava Leadwood forest, the Ximpalapala crest, and along the Manyelethi river in particular.
Young female leopards can become independent from their mothers anywhere from the age of about 12 months through to over 24 months, but only really start becoming sexually active at the age of three and a half. With the Xinzele female being born in mid-2017, she is reaching the age where she will most likely fall pregnant with her first litter of cubs pretty soon. Recently she has been seen mating with the Flat Rock male for the second time in about a month.
As is often the case in leopards the female has to put in a lot of hard work trying to entice the male to mate; arching her back alongside him, growling deeply. Basically the leopard equivalent of flirting.
We managed to find the pair down in the open sand of the Manyelethi river. If only we could see them mate here, was our fervent wish. We sat and waited with the knowledge that a mating pair will normally copulate every twenty minutes or so for sometimes four or five days. After numerous attempts of flirting with the male he eventually gave in to her advances.
The mating starts off fairly docile with a bit of growling, then begins to escalate. In order to ensure her submission the male bites her on the nape of the neck. The act of mating can be painful as the male’s penis has recurved barbs. This a trait of felines, which in combination with the numerous copulations induces the female to ovulate.
A lot of excitement around viewing mating leopards stems from the impressive dismounts that can occur as a result of the barbed penis. As the male withdraws, it is painful for both the individuals. The female spins around and lashes out at the male claws splayed. Anticipating this, he leaps off and swipes back at her.
She usually flops over and rolls around on her back. He often moves off a bit further and settles down.
We have reported on this particular mating pair a couple of times over the last few months. Will this mating bout produce results…?