We last saw the cub of the Ostrich Koppies female in April. Since then, this female leopard has been seen nine times in total, suggesting that she has been living an exceptionally reclusive life. In all nine sightings she was seen without her offspring, and gave no impression that she still had a cub. Without evidence of a her cub in almost four months, we assumed that it had succumbed to the harsh Lowveld conditions. Sadly it seemed that history had repeated itself – the Ostrich Koppies female had to-date not managed to raise any of the cubs from her five litters to maturity.
On the morning of the 19th of July we were all proven wrong. One of our rangers, Yuri de Villiers, announced that the tracks of a female leopard and a cub had been seen. After twenty minutes of impressive tracking, Yuri informed us that he had seen a young leopard cub on the northern bank of the Nwana Nonamshamen Donga.
The cub seemed surprised at our presence, but was at the same time very relaxed around our Land Rovers. Within the hour, a faint contact call came from the common spike thorn thicket nearby, and lo and behold, the Ostrich Koppies female leopard appeared from the bush to rejoin her cub. It was an exciting announcement to be heard over the radio!
The female cub is around seven months old, and the Ostrich Koppies female has done really well to keep her cub alive up to this point in time. However, the cub has a long way to go before reaching independence. Hopefully her mother’s misfortune in parenting in the past has taught her a few lessons, and this cub will survive until adulthood.
We followed up the next morning only to find the Ostrich Koppies female taking in the early morning sun. The cub was not present, but she was located a couple of hundred metres west of her mother – adventurous behaviour is common in cubs of this age. While the photographers were making the most of the morning sun, the familiar low rasping call of a dominant male leopard was heard echoing through the donga.
Soon afterwards, the ever present Airstrip male came trotting down the donga, following the scent of the Ostrich Koppies female. He sniffed around before finding her staring straight at him.
The Airstrip Male’s behaviour indicated very little aggression, and with the scent of the cub in the area, it is a good sign that he may be the father of the cub. All three leopards lay in different parts along the donga system for the remainder of the morning and early parts of the afternoon.
Ranger – MalaMala Game Reserve