Text: Dave Landey | Photographs: Dave Landey and Sarah Kobal
The infrequently seen, yet stunning Matshapiri female leopard is fifteen years of age this year. She holds her territory in the north eastern parts of MalaMala, namely around the northern parts of the Matshapiri river.
Born to the White Cloth female (1993 – 2010) and fathered by the Rock Drift male (1995 – 2007), this female has up to this point mothered three litters of cubs. The first was a litter of two cubs in 2005, the survivor was a young female, known as the Daughter of the Matshapiri female. She has not been seen in a number of years, and is assumed to have established her territory off the MalaMala reserve.
The Matshapiri female has had two more litters of cubs since 2005. A single male cub was born in 2008, as with the Daughter of the Matshapiri female, but is assumed to no longer reside on MalaMala. A male and female were born in the third litter of cubs in 2011, although the whereabouts/wellbeing of these two is unknown.
In a very exciting early morning drive earlier this month, my guest and I were heading towards Clarendon open area. Suddenly the game drive vehicle came to an abrupt halt as some movement was noticed about ten meters off the road. Upon further inspection it was found to be the Matshapiri female and to my surprise, she was not travelling alone. She had two young cubs with her, between two and three months of age – the first sighting of these cubs at MalaMala.
As is the case with all young animals, the cubs were ultra-aware of the vehicle while their mom seemed to take absolutely no notice. During this sighting, we were lucky enough to watch the Matshapiri female stalking an impala ram, but the vivacious cubs eventually gave away their mothers position and the potential quarry moved off.
A fair amount of distance was maintained between the vehicle and the two cubs, so we were unable to determine the sex of these two cubs, however we hope to see a lot more of them in the future.