Today’s blog will provide an update on the Plaque Rock Female’s Fourth Litter. Sean Zeederberg‘s recent sighting of them at their second den site in the Sand River was nothing short of magical. The cubs, playful and carefree on the stunning boulders, painted a heartwarming scene. However, the unexpected discovery that she had relocated the cubs to a third den site within a month left our ranging team puzzled.
Fast forward to the new year, and the whereabouts of the Plaque Rock Female’s cubs still remain a mystery. Recent sightings of her on Londolozi with a hoisted impala kill sparked curiosity. Rangers closely examined her belly for a milk pouch and suckle marks, but the results were inconclusive. Perhaps her recent hunting activities kept her away from the den. The last known den site was at the magical set of granite boulders on the southern bank of the Sand River, east of the Londolozi Camps. Sean’s Virtual Safari which went out on Christmas Eve, was in fact filmed at the beginning of December.
The last den site she used and featured in Sean’s video was established by Ranger Robyn Morrison as she watched in awe of the Plaque Rock Female gently carrying her cubs towards the set of boulders on the banks of the Sand River.
What We Know
She has abandoned her second den site and we presume she has since moved the cubs further north into the river because we found a number of her tracks moving in and out of the river north of the second den.
We have not been seeing her as much near the old (second) den site. Sightings of her have been less frequent in the last three weeks, indicating that she may be spending a lot more time either in the river or on the northern bank, an area on our neighbour’s property.
The Rising River
During the summer months and in particular January, we expect an increase in rainfall. This season has been no different, and a tremendous amount of rain has fallen recently, which saw the water rise a considerable amount, raising concerns that if a new den was established in the middle channel, this may have been washed away. On a more positive note, our neighbours in the east reported that the Plaque Rock Female was spotted north of the river on more than one occasion without any sign of the cubs. This could mean she had successfully moved the cubs across the river before the rains.
Age of Cubs
Discovered in early December 2023, the cubs appeared to be around three weeks old. Now, at two and a half months, they are growing rapidly, demanding more sustenance. The Plaque Rock Female must spend more time hunting to provide sufficient quality milk. This results in longer periods away from the den, potentially leaving the cubs more exposed to potential dangers.
At this stage, we remain hopeful that the cubs are alive, and that the rangers are committed to the continued search for her den. Stay tuned for more updates as we closely monitor this fascinating chapter in the life of this incredible leopard.