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Kirst Joscelyne


At less than a year old, Kirst went to her family’s hut in the Greater Kruger National Park, and has been fortunate enough to continue to go there ever since. Sharing a passion for the bush with her family, led to countless trips ...

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on Tragedy For The Nkoveni Female Leopard

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Thanks so much for the update Kirst, although the news is heartbreaking. However, Sean’s virtual safari yesterday prepared us for the inevitability that the jaw injury of the third cub was most likely not going to heal and consequently, it would not survive. It’s hard to say but perhaps a quick death is better than slowly starving to death…. I do find it strange that Nkoveni returned to the scene of the incident, and subsequently carried the lifeless body back to the place she had stored her latest kill. Could it be she wanted the time to mourn with the surviving cubs in attendance? However, learning she was still contact calling for a few days doesn’t make sense either….. the mysteries within the animal kingdom are plentiful, therefore we can surmise and ponder yet the questions will remain.

Thanks Denise. It is very hard to say and something we can never truly know. Often we don’t witness the tragedy of a mother losing her cubs so hard to comment of the behaviour as their is little known about it. We can only hope the remaining two will survive

It’s a difficult update to read but, Kirst, you did an excellent job in describing the scene and the many unanswered questions. We will all watch for news and hope for the best for the two remaining cubs as well as their lovely mother.

Thanks Melinda, we can only wait and see.

Kirst, thank you for the update. It is sad to hear of the death of the little cub, but with a broken jaw it would have been hard for it to survive and thrive. I do believe animals have emotions and mourn their missing and dead mates. Hoping for the best for the remaining two cubs.

Thanks William, I tend to agree with you in terms of knowing that one of their own die. We can never truly understand the level of animals emotions and can only try and make sense of what we observe out there

Very sad and definitely makes you questioned why she carried the cub over to the impala.
Love reading all the blogs and hopefully we can come back soon!

Thanks Jordan, certainly a very interesting situation one where we do not have all the answers. I can’t say I have heard of any other circumstances where this has occurred. We hope to see you back soon!

Kirst, Thanks for sharing the update. Your story is a very sad one and we can only imagine how emotional it was for you and the team. There is no answer to why this happened but it is the way of the wild and it’s not for us to understand all of it…

Definitely a difficult update to give. We can only hope that she is able to raise the other remaining two cubs.

I know it might not make sense if you don’t believe the bible to be true, but this is what I learned when I studied Genesis chapter 1 in it’s original language, Hebrew. There are 5 levels to our soul, not 1. One exists within time and space and the other 4 levels outside of time and space. When God created all living creatures excluding humans (ie: insects, arachnids, reptiles, amphibians, fish, avians, mammals etc) he created them with a nefesh. This is the part of the soul that makes choices, feels emotions, has logic and all the other IQs. Animals have this part of the soul. According to the Bible, all animals feel extremely strong emotions. They make choices, grieve, experience joy, loss and pride. It was also a God given command to humans to look after this planet and not withhold good when it is within our power to act (Proverbs). If leopards were seriously endangered, would you then intervene medically? Just a thought….

Thanks Tracey, The level of endangered species certainly plays a role in the level of human intervention as we have seen in recent times with the African Wild Dog and Rhino population. Unfortunately the injury for the cub was substantial enough that even in a ‘domestic setting’ it would require extensive treatment. It is always tough when dealing with the harsh realties of the wild, often ones which we do not witness.

There’s a biological, very intimate and tight link between a mother and her offspring. This should be regarded as the first feeling of empath that will help us grow and survive, have our offspring in turn and so on. It is well known in the research field that females are more empathic and emotional than males. It is due to different links in the brain and hormones. That said, the Nkoveni female has been an excellent mother and her maternal instinct is so strong. She won’t give up on any cub lightly. I already saw leopardesses in her same situation. Not only monkey s, primates, marine mammals and elephants behave mourning their losses…

While super sad to think about, my theory is that she carried the cub over to the kill to make it easier for the cub to feed. She knew the cub had been struggling to feed and was weak, so, maybe, hoping her cub was still alive, she got the cub closer to the kill so it could feed more easily.

I agree with Denise – Sean’s virtual safari from yesterday was very sad with news of the injured cub, but given that intervention simply wasn’t feasible, it is probably better that the cub met a swift end. Thank goodness Nkoveni and the other 2 cubs had climbed out of the reach of the lions. After the Piva male’s death and Plaque Rock’s close escape I shudder to think of the consequences.

You asked for opinions on this momma leopard. I genuinely believe all animals love and grieve. She brought her dead cub to the carcass hoping he/she would get up and eat.
This mother leopard could teach a lot of humans something about love.

Absolutely the best outcome for that poor cub so tbh ey didn’t suffer any longer. Starving would have been far worse death. Interesting that mom still called for the cub even after moving the passed cub tho. I’m sure animals mourn but I think for less time than humans.

This is really heartbreaking news. However, one can say that it shortened the suffering of this poor injured cub. It would probably have starved to death slowly. Nature can be so cruel and hard.
Let’s hope that the two remaining cubs will make it.
Regarding the question whether or not animals feel emotions like sadness or joy, I am convinced they feel it as we do. Not exactly in the same way because their instincts and senses work probably a bit differently from ours, but they certainly mourn their losses and enjoy their healthy and playful cubs, e.g.
I took a photo of Nhlanguleni female the day when she lost one of her cubs in August last year. As I had seen so many leopards in such different situations, I showed the photos to some friends and relatives, who had never seen wild animals in the wilderness and asked them to tell me what – in their opinion- the animals had just experienced. They said at once that the Nhlanguleni female looked so sad and were also able to guess the emotions/ situations from the faces of all the other leopards I showed them.
And why should animals not feel emotions? Only because we do not know everything about them doesn’t mean they don’t have any. The more one reads about animals or observes them in their own surrounding the more interesting their behaviors become. Really fascinating.
It is really a wonderful privilege to be out there in the bush and watch and witness so much.

Perhaps it is mourning or perhaps it’s ‘attending to’. Maybe she was merely attending to the cub. If the cub had been alive and wasn’t paying attention, her instinct would still be to bring that cub along to a carcass. She wouldn’t sit and scold it and smack it around or punish it. She, also, would not get it a therapist. She would simply do what a mother leopard does. She would take matters into her own jaws and bring the kitten to the family table, so to speak. Her job, by instinct, is to clean and care for her young, no matter what humans call its psychosis or how humans feel about it. And, I doubt that she feels any hope for the future of anything. She probably cannot even comprehend what future we’re philosophizing. What’s present is what’s present and she deals with it like a leopard, not like a human. Besides, all of our supposed future plans are all based on our past, as our brains are just allowing us to see the world as we once knew it. That’s why we think there was a “good ‘ol days”. Since there never was a “good ‘ol days” to look back on, there’s no “good future” to look forward to for any human being. We just keep doing the “same ‘ol, same ‘ol” expecting different results. You may not like it. So what? Go tell the stars tonight that you don’t like them blinking. See if that makes a difference for you. LOL. When you get this point, you will begin a transformation, if you don’t get caught up in making it mean anything. The difference in animals and humans is that animals don’t make it mean anything. We make everything mean something. It doesn’t. When someone tells me they don’t like me or they like me, there’s an immediate assessment. That’s my machinery. Just like it’s the machinery of a mother leopard to attend to her cubs. Machinery, machinery, machinery. That’s why we keep making more and more extraordinary weapons and we don’t make sure everyone is fed, clothed, housed and educated for free, which would remove the threats and reasons for more weapons. We don’t even question why we are slaves to systems we invent that aren’t working for us, like economics in any format. We are stuck in a loop and we cannot work our way out of it, because we go into our heads and listen to the same system that brought on all the troubles in the first place. So, we hope, which is a really tragic mistake. “Hope without action is no hope at all.” So, it is better to create a vision and take action towards that vision than to resign oneself to hoping. There’s nothing in our brains but the past. Last night’s Wheel of Fortune program was very funny to me. One puzzle was “My inside voice”. The next puzzle was “My outside voice” and the final puzzle in that section was “The voice inside my head.” The voice inside our heads isn’t us. That’s the delusional voice and we have kept mistaking ourselves for it ever since the time of Adam and Eve, or the evolution of our mitochondria and the growth of our craniums. It’s not us. It’s the evolution of our survival mechanism, but it doesn’t know that we’re not here to survive. We’re here to live. And, since we mistake it for us, we listen to it and we create a world that is based on its info from our human past, rather than that of what works. The ten commandments are a leading marker for what works…They aren’t everything and that’s why the 11th commandment is to “Love the people you assume are your enemies.” And why? Because the rule of the road in the entire universe is, “One reaps what one sows.” One can neither escape that or change that. Sorry! Again, I don’t care if you like it or not. But, all children must prove their parents wrong. They must test everything again and again and again. See how insane we are? Without meaning, nothing is good and nothing is bad; no one is right and no one is wrong. That’s why Shakespeare said, “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” One may do something that doesn’t work. The little cub had a broken jaw. It did what didn’t work, and we don’t know exactly what that was, and it lived with the consequences until it wasn’t alive any more. Our lives are affected by us doing what works and what doesn’t work. Our lives are affected by the amount of time we spend listening to the voice inside our heads. We either learn from that or we don’t. But, nobody is a jerk because of it. Jerk is an assessment and that just adds caca to the space. So, we mourn the leopard cub, because it’s our machinery. The mother leopard is attending to her cub, until the cub doesn’t respond. I suggest that that’s what she was made to do.

I want to say something else here. Does a mother leopard love her cub(s)? If we accept that love is ‘acceptance’, then she loves her cub(s). That, I suggest, is the greatest love any mother can give her child(ren). Any time caca gets in the way of acceptance, that’s when a child goes south and starts acting out. Acceptance of the way a cub is and is not, is the most nourishing love a mother can give. And, the times a mother doesn’t distinguish between the caca or judgements and evaluations and her child(ren)[this goes for fathers as well], is the time lack of love occurs. And, love is what every human and animal craves. Just accept me the way I am and keep interacting with me as a whole entity, even if I’ve done something wrong. Now, I qualify this with a resounding “I know it’s hard, especially if they are ‘different’ or ‘not what one envisioned’; or when life is hard and the child(ren) seem to always get it in the way. But take a lesson from this mother leopard. She didn’t treat that cub with the broken jaw any differently. She caressed it as much and she gave it the opportunity to eat as much as either of the other 2. It drew it’s own path from there on out. And, the mother leopard keeps on going. However, the mother leopard doesn’t have the meaning making machinery in her head that we have. And, she doesn’t have to be trained to not pay attention to a lot of the caca we add to the space, because kids add caca, too. So, by no means is acceptance easy and that’s why we all should have compassion for each and every one of us, including ourselves. And, that is the source of the Ten Instructions for a Society That Works. They’re not commandments. They are recommendations from Beings that know our ways of being and want a better future for us. Our mistake is to listen like someone’s dumping these things on us. That would be the caca talking. And, by the way, every major religion says the same thing in their doctrines. So, I’m not pushing any religious values on anyone. These are life supporting recommendations. I find my life works when I abide by them. And, the main theme of them is to love/accept everyone as they are.

It is devastating to see the little cub with the broken jaw knowing full well it will not survive because it cannot eat properly. In any event the cub would of died a slow death, so maybe it is better that the lions killed it, sparing the cub starvation. Never the less it is heartbreaking to see this and even more for you Rangers and Trackers that experience these accidents frequently. Shame maybe Nkoveni was trying to get the cub to be close to her and the other cubs for safety and maybe she thought it would be able to eat. Mourning her cub must be very hard and heartbreaking for her.

Such a heartbreaking story, Kirst, but compassionately told. My stomach turned flips reading the story, my heart going out to Nkoveni. It must have been so hard for you and everyone who witnessed the events. I hope that this little family experiences no more tragedy.

Thanks very much Kirst for the update and the details of the encounter. So very sad !!Barry had already let me know as we all had such spectacular viewing of all 3 cubs just a few weeks ago .Life is really tough in the wild and it is really difficult to raise 3 cubs but Nkoveni is such a good mother and hopefully she will raise these other 2 to adulthood .We really dont understand the emotions of animals but animals feel much more than we give them credit .

I am sooooooglad that I did not witness this! Poor sweet mama losing one of her babies. Fascinating that she continued to call however. That calling just has to be part of the mourning process.

This is sad news for sure, but I am relieved that the cub likely died instantly and didn’t suffer starvation. Even if it hadn’t starved, it likely wouldn’t have made it to thriving adulthood, and this way the Nkoveni female can focus her energy on the two remaining cubs.

Senior Digital Ranger

Such a sad but unfortunately inevitable outcome for that poor little soul. It must have been heartbreaking to have to watch this unfold. Nature can be be very cruel

Probably the best outcome for the leopard family.

We can only hope that she is able to raise the remaining two cubs.

Very sad indeed Kirst. Thank you for the update, and wishing the best for the remaining Nkoveni family.

Thanks Paul, us too!

Thank you for a sensitive, well written account of these occurrences in a place I’ve never been but long to visit. Appreciated your authentic questions and clarity in documenting… heartbreaking realities of the bush – especially as we follow these creatures who become familiar to us. Keep up the great work!

Thank you so much. A very difficult sighting to witness and be a part of. We can only hope for the best for this female and her two cubs

Wonderful, emotional narration Kirst–proven by the quantity and depth of the responses.

Thanks Vin a very emotional time for sure.

Thank you for you story on these leopards. You told it in a kind and caring way!

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