With the vegetation dying back and the grass becoming flattened by the trampling of hooves, these normally elusive cats have been sighted over 20 times this month.
The Ndlovu male was seen on a few occasions as he was patrolling the Sweni River and the Granophyre Ridges in front of camp. As one of the most relaxed big male leopards in the area, it is always a treat to get a glimpse of him, especially when Solomon found him walking along the bank of the N’wanetsi River. In the perfect afternoon light, he delivered quite a show as he set off on a territorial patrol, even leaping from boulder to boulder as he crossed the last remaining pools of the N’wanetsi.
The Dumbana female and cub were seen seven times this month. On one occasion Walter managed to track her down at the Ntsibitsane Drainage Line where she had caught an impala. On this particular occasion both mom and cub were so busy indulging that they did not notice a spotted hyena that had stalked up to them. The hyena suddenly charged in from the side and dragged the carcass away from both of the cats, and with copious amounts of snarling and hissing, the leopards ended up lying in close proximity to the hyena as it was feasting away, unable to reclaim their kill. Fortunately, she managed to kill another impala several days later, and this time she hoisted it into a big Marula tree. This lured in members of the Nyokene Hyena Clan, but with the carcass out of reach the hyenas could do nothing but wait in anticipation for any scraps that might fall down. Because of the positioning of the kill we had great sightings of both mom and cub for three days in a row.
The real star of the show however was the Xinkelengane Female. Since she was seen with her cubs two months ago, sightings of one of our most relaxed females have been few and far between, as her cubs were denning in a rather inaccessible area. This was all about to change when Wessel and Rogers found her feeding on the last remains of an impala kill along the Mhlangulene Drainage line. She slowly climbed out of the tree before grooming herself and setting off on patrol, scent marking as she went along. Out of the blue she sat down in the middle of the road and she started to call softly. The soft calls and the rustling of leaves and grass coming from the cliffs could only mean one thing… cubs! She proceeded to walk towards a clearing where she continued to call, before not one, but two leopard cubs appeared. Initially quite shy, the youngsters soon mustered up the courage to come out to mom. With big blue eyes looking at the vehicles, they soon relaxed and mom started to groom them and nurse them out in the open. This was a real memorable experience, with both guests and guides being left speechless. Hopefully the new youngsters will start to make more regular appearances.