Following on from a recent blog by Barry, where he explores the harsh realities of raising cubs, this blog will shed some light on the next phase in this process- mating. Female leopards will only come back into oestrus/heat when their cubs are raised to independence or are killed. So with many of the recent cubs viewed over the course of this year no longer around, the females have set out on their missions to fall pregnant again. The first step in this is to seek out the dominant males in the area. Firstly, the male dominant over the area where they also hold territory, then move further afield to seek out other dominant males that could be likely threats to take over from the male in her territory.
Over the last few months, we have had leopards mating a fair amount, which is a highly sought-after sighting for many.
For the most part, the Senegal Bush Male has been the male involved, although we will run through the different sightings and who has mated with who.
Initially seen as a young male in 2016, this leopard only properly established territory on Londolozi in mid-2019
Nkuwa Female and Senegal Bush Male
The first mating bout was between the Nkuwa Female and Senegal Bush Male, who subsequently have been seen mating again more recently. The first was towards the end of August when Ranger Jess Shillaw and Kyle Gordon followed them through the wild date palms in the Sand River. This pair continued to roam the Senegal Bush Male’s territory for around five days.
One of two sisters born to the Nhlanguleni Female, both of whom made it to independence, the first intact litter to do so in 7 years.
Then the two were found mating again on the 6th of October, although they did not mate for four consecutive days they were seen mating for two more days until parting ways.
Nhlanguleni Female and Senegal Bush Male
The Nlangheni Female (the Nkuwa female’s mother) who often spends a lot of time in the river met up with the Senegal Bush Male on the 1st of September, very soon after the Nkuwa Female was finished mating. The two began mating and roamed into the Senegal Bush Male’s territory over the following four days.
Initially skittish she spent a lot of time in the Sand River, now relaxed she makes up the majority of leopard viewing west of camp.
Although it seems strange that he would mate with both the mother and daughter, it is in actual fact not strange at all. Both the Nhlanguleni Female and Nkuwa Female are dominant and territorial in areas close by and are covered by the Senegal Bush Male as the dominant male in the area. There is no genetic overlap between the females and this male. Female leopards become sexually reproductive from about three years old with mothers usually ceding territory to their daughters, it is therefore likely that they will mate with the same male.
Ximungwe Female and Senegal Bush Male
With the Ximungwe Young Male becoming newly independent, it was only a matter of time before the Ximungwe Female would come into oestrus again. Before we knew it, she was seen calling incessantly from a termite mound seeking out any males in the area. This resulted in the Senegal Bush Male responding to the rasps after sharing the remains of her duiker carcass the two moved on and chose no other spot to stop and mate than the Londolozi airstrip.
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
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The Senegal Bush Male has now been the dominant male over the Ximungwe Female for a few years and could very likely be the father of the Ntomi Male. So we can only hope that the Ximungwe female is able to successfully raise his offspring once more.
Piccadilly Female and Flat Rock Male
With the Piccadilly Young female now at independence, the Piccadilly female has been mating with the Flat Rock Male. After following them along the Manyelethi River for a little while they ended up mating on the rocks at Marthly pools before moving down towards the Sand River.
A dominant male leopard over the majority of the north. He originally took over the 4:4 Male's territory when he died.
Piccadilly Female and Maxim’s Male
A few weeks after mating with the Flat Rock Male the Piccadilly Female was then seen mating with the Maxim’s Male. This pair was tricky to follow and the elusive secretive nature of the Maxim’s Male was probably to blame for this.
This female is most often encountered near the Sand River to the east of the Londolozi camps.
Fairly skittish male that is presumed to have come from the Kruger National Park.
While it is always an exciting and exhilarating experience watching leopards mate, and a sighting that only a handful of people are lucky enough to witness, we can’t help but cast our minds forward over the next three months or so where we will hopefully be on a mission to find a number of leopard dens again. Although the raising of these cubs to independence is a difficult one we can only hope that a few more leopard cubs make it to at least a year old, from this point the odds of survival is much greater. Stay tuned for more updates in the next few months.