Our resident female leopard Twin Spots has successfully raised three cubs over the last years near KwaMbili. We are extremely fortunate that she seemed to make sure she spent some time with them in and around camp, at times bringing them through camp on an almost daily basis (luckily mainly at night!). Their antics have provided us with a great number of experiences and stories. So it’s time for an update!
After setting off on his own, the eldest male, Ngwenja, established himself just north of camp and still passed through from time to time. One of our rangers encountered Ngwenja on foot when he was busy bush clearing near his vehicle. He retreated to the safety of the vehicle and Ngwenya followed, flopping down next to the vehicle – quite comfortable with our presence. Ngwenja has grown into an exceptionally big adult leopard and has even been seen stalking zebra. He has since moved south and has been seen mating with a young female, the offspring of the female whose territory borders that of Twin Spots.
Twin Spots’ next cub, Ntsako, another male, stayed around the area of the camp for quite a while after he left his mother, surprising us on several occasions when we bumped into him in camp but never acting aggressively, and entertaining the guests with his increasingly successful attempts at hunting, culminating in his killing a porcupine in front of the hide. He too has moved off, going north. He recently defeated the older dominant male leopard in a bloody fight to take control of his territory. He has reached sexual maturity and is presently mating with a young female. Ntsako is still sometimes seen in the company of his older brother Ngwenja – a rare phenomenon amongst leopards.
Twin Spots’ latest cub is a female. A remarkable thing happened when the cub was really small – Twin Spots and cub were seen on a number of occasions in the presence of her two male offspring, Ngwenja and Ntsako, either relaxing or purposefully hunting together. And we even saw them sharing a kill. Leopards are known to be solitary animals so it is extremely unusual to see them acting as a “pride” – in fact so unusual that in the one other case we are aware of, researchers are making a study of it. The female cub has now grown considerably and has spent a lot of time around camp over the last months with or without her mother, so much so in fact that rangers are referring to her as the “KwaMbili youngster” (see photo of her with Twin Spots in camp recently). She often appears at the waterhole in front of our hide in the evening, where she even managed to get close enough to inquisitively paw an unsuspecting civet which turned and ran. We are seeing her more and more without her mother and she appears to be becoming independent, spending more time to the east of KwaMbili.
And as for Twin Spots herself, well, it is probably time for her to signal for a mate so she can go through motherhood all over again!