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Sean Zeederberg

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As a young boy growing up on an agricultural farm in Zimbabwe, Sean spent every opportunity entertaining himself outdoors, camping in the local nature reserve and learning about all facets of the natural world. After completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental ...

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on What Happened To The Nhlanguleni Cubs?

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You’ve posed the million dollar question – in the wild there are so many factors that could account for the loss of Nhlanguleni’s second cub. I had not even considered that she might deliberately abandon her cub, giving up on feeding and protecting it from other predators, in order to mate again. My thoughts, such as they are, lead me down the path that unfortunately believes hyenas killed the second cub, finding it alone in the drainage line. Nhlanguleni may find herself in the same position as the Mashaba female, raising only two females to adulthood. Nature isn’t predictable nor fair, but that’s the beauty of accepting what we cannot change.

I also think that the most likely culprits are hyenas but as you say nature isn’t predictable and will run its course. Hopefully she will have some better luck going forward.

Sean, thank you for this update. Nature doesn’t always tell us the full story and we are left to guess. It is the art of survival that is so hard but yet so rewarding. The choices an animal makes guided by their unique experiences are a mystery in many respects. Instinct, survival, fight or flight, we can only guess at the motive which drives each animal.

Nature doesn’t always tell us the full story and in a way that is almost better, it leaves our imaginations to run wild.

Only a question: where is the Finfoot female now?

Statistically, the higher the number of hyenas in a certain region is, the smaller the number of leopard cubs. This is not only nature’s responsibility, but also humans, as leopards coat and beauty were and are sought after.
From a behavioural point of view, it is not common for a mother who is in excellent conditions and still has a healthy cub to abandon it. You listed all the excellent advantages of that particular spot… that, in turn, attracts other predators. Mothers firstly invest in the protection of their dna, and it could be seen also in the Mashaba female. She tried all that was possible… after all, this is Nhlanguleni’s territory and I don’t think she could abandon it. Very sad for her and her cubs and also not a good news for the species…

I highly doubt that she would abandon the last remaining cub, but it is just one of the theories as to what could have happened.

It’s very sad, and we’ll never know….but I also think hyenas are the most likely culprit, in the absence of lions. I wonder if the cats grieve for their lost cubs in the way elephants appear to – again impossible to know.

It is so sad, and a hyena is the most likely culprit, however, we will never know. I think there must be some form of grieving but the question is how long lasting is it?

Sean I cannot believe that she would leave her second cub alone to fend for itself. After the hyena killed the first one I am sure she had started it away so no one can see the cub. Hopeful that the cub is still alive. She is pretty close to her daughter who also has cubs, and you never know what the Nkuwa female is thinking, she is also a mother protecting her cubs. Let’s hope the second cub is still alive.

Sadly I think that the second cub is no longer around. It has not been seen for some time. But hopefully, the Nhlanguleni Female is able to have another litter again soon.

Barry, Tshepo and I saw this cub and its mother on 29th August, only a few days after the death of the second cub.
It was such a wonderful sighting: the mother came out of the bush and called the cub to come out, too. And we were able to watch them for some time. So peaceful and beautiful.
It is such a pity that this adorable little guy should be dead now. How sad! I also believe that a hyena must have killed the cub. Theoretically those boulders are such a good hiding place. However, the hyenas are clever and follow the cars. So the cubs are easy prey for them.

I think the sighting you, Barry and Tshepo had of the cub was one of the very last times it was seen. It is such a pity that the cub never made it but hopefully the mother is able to have another litter soon.

So tragic. I’m reminded not only of the Mashaba female but also the Nanga and Plaque Rock females, all of whom have had terrible luck trying to raise offspring to maturity. Being a leopard mother is tough duty and makes me appreciate those surviving cubs even more!

Being a leopard mother is a really challenging task and raising cubs to independence is not an easy task.

Goodness me. Having been at that last sighting with you, I was hoping that the remaining cub would fare better.

I was hoping that she would raise this cub successfully, but sadly not. On top of this, the den that she moved the last cub to was not the greatest and so if anything was wondering on by, the cub would have been easy pickings.

Wow Sean, What a sad story… I guess we were lucky to see them on our last visit. The dynamics of female leopards and their cubs is challenging to say the least and its difficult to accept the sheer number of cubs that are lost… We will hope for her to have success with her next litter!

It really is a sad story. The female leopards do have a tough time trying to raise their cubs and we hope that she has better luck with her next litter of cubs.

Sadness for Nhlanguleni……we were so fortunate to see both Nkuwa and Finfoot with their mama and also Flat Rock in August 2019! So it is sad that she has not raised any other cubbies….and I wish that we knew what happened to Finfoot, too. I hope that Nhlanguleni will find success once again, too!

A mother leopard has it tough trying to raise cubs and sadly the Nhlanguleni Female has not had an easy time. The Finfoot Female moved south and I haven’t heard anything more of her.

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