An element of sadness has presided over the bush for the last few weeks. With the cub of the Kikilezi female passing, and the Styx pride slaying two Cape hunting dogs, mother nature has been reminding us how fickle life in the wild can be. On the 24th of February, much of this was soon forgotten when a spectacular discovery was made.
In recent months the Ostrich Koppies female leopard has been mating with the Airstrip male. As usual, we had been monitoring her closely for any signs of pregnancy. Suspicions of her lactating were raised and these were confirmed toward the end of January with matted hair around her nipples being a clear sign of cubs suckling.
It took an alert ranger travelling in the vicinity of her namesake, the Ostrich Koppies, to spot something scurrying across the granite rocks. Although thinking at the time that it was none other than a rock hyrax, he had in fact discovered the carefully selected den site of the Ostrich Koppies female.
The Ostrich Koppies female, born in October 2004, produced her first litter of two cubs in 2009. Both cubs died in that year. Her next litter in 2010 also consisted of two cubs. One of these female cubs reached independence, but her status is currently unknown. She will now attempt to raise her third litter, interestingly also consisting of two cubs. It is safe to assume that the Airstrip male is the father of these cubs.
It is estimated that the youngsters are around six weeks of age. Their current place of hiding is well vegetated, and has excellent cover for the cubs. These cubs will be moved periodically to new localities. This would make good sense to prevent the lair from becoming impregnated with the leopard’s smell, which would attract the unwelcome attention of other predators. Since discovering the den, the mother has been followed to two separate locations where she has cached a kill. It will be some time before the cubs are able to join their mother on journeys to stashed prey. Cubs will typically be weaned after approximately three months, and it will be around this age that cubs will begin to follow their mother to carcasses.
We will treat these cubs with the usual respect and care during this vulnerable stage of their lives. There will be limited traffic around them, and the cubs will only be viewed while in the presence of their mother. We wish the Ostrich Koppies female the best luck in raising the cubs to independence, which she will statistically have a fifty percent chance of achieving.
Reports from the north suggest that the mother of the Ostrich Koppies female, the Campbell Koppies female, is also currently stashing a new litter of cubs. Her cubs have not yet been revealed. The father of these cubs is most likely the Gowrie male.
Ranger – MalaMala Game Reserve