The Tamboti female is arguably the most photogenic leopard on MalaMala, and in recent times she has become even more sought after by photographers and non photographers alike. Her first litter has had everyone ‘going bananas’! For the moment she is still keeping her two cubs just to the west of our property, and only leading them onto MalaMala when she’s made a kill – the three of them returning west as soon as they’ve consumed their meal. Perhaps she feels safer there.
We recently had a great sighting that went like this: Tracks of a female leopard and two cubs coming eastwards onto MalaMala were called in on the radio… Game On!!
It took some top notch tracking and an hour of patience before we finally located the animals around 17:00. But the scene that greeted us made it all worth while.
The Tamboti female was lying down on a patch of short grass watching her cubs as they proceeded to annihilate a Magic Guarri (euclea divinorum) sapling. The two youngsters would eye out the young shrub, then take a run up and launch a dive tackle! They occasionally set their sights on each other too, as well as taking intermittent breaks to affectionately rub up against their mother. After a while one of the cubs set off in the opposite direction from the tattered bush, and headed into some long long grass at the base of a Buffalo Thorn tree (ziziphus mucronata). This was soon followed by the sound of carnassial teeth cutting through meat. The Tamboti female had killed a young male impala, probably around midday, and most of the carcass was still intact. The leopards took turns feeding off the carcass, before the two cubs enjoyed some of their mother’s milk as the sun set. The curious cubs would wander within two feet of our vehicles, sitting down and watching us with wide eyes.
There was no sign of the trio the next morning, and tracks revealed that a pride of lions had moved through the area. We can only assume that the lions either chased the leopards off the kill, or the Tamboti female abandoned her hard-earned meal when she heard the big cats coming, and took evasive action.
Pieter van Wyk
Ranger – MalaMala Game Reserve