A leap of leopards!

Wow wow wow! Did I say Wow already?!

Hi everyone! What an incredible sighting we had on the 2nd Nov! Father, son of 3 years old and cubs of 1 year old together!

Floppy ear nursing her cubs

Drive started slowly due to it being so cold. I was completely wrapped up in bennie, scarf, fleece and wind breaker with just my eyes showing through! Seb took us to the hyena den where we found floppy ear giving her cubs their breakfast, while teddy and the gang had to satisfy themselves with cuddling for warmth.

One cub even went to lie next to the nursing cubs, resting it’s head on the back of one! Everyone seemed content until Floppy ear noticed and tried to lunge at the intruder while her own children were still feeding from her! The cub got the message and went to sit on it’s sibling while it proceeded to wash itself. Teddy on the other hand was watching from a safe distance at the den entrance, for once keeping out of trouble!  Eventually everyone settled and went back to snoozing, so we took our que and left.

Teddy waiting!

It was an hour or so later we ended up around tree house dam and while we sat watching the orange-breasted bush-shrike we heard something call.

I thought it was a leopard calling, but with my ears covered by my hat and hood, I could barely hear it! Seb thought it was the end part of lion’s roar, but with the machines buzzing it was difficult to say for sure! Happy at the prospect lions could be in the area, we hoped to hear the calling again to get a direction at least, unaware at what we were about to witness!

Orange-breasted bush shrike

Driving off the dam wall, we noticed floppy ear following her nose with a cub in tow, heading straight for the drainage line. She looked to have the scent of something, but thick bush deterred us from following the two hyena, so we tried a little further along the road to to see if we could relocate her. Eagle eyed Seb caught sight of a duiker, who suddenly clocked us and sped away! But both of us we so busy watching where the dwarf antelope had just been, neither of us had spotted the 2 leopard cubs sitting quietly on the side of the road also spying on the duiker!  It was only when Xivindzi darted in front of the Ganda in the direction of where the duiker disappeared, did we see her! At which point I turned to see where she had come from and sure enough there was Xivambalana curiously watching his sister! Could it be the duiker saw the spotted felines and was fleeing for it’s life rather than us? What ever the reason, the cubs tried to follow but lost interest as they climbed the banking on the other side of the drainage line.

Yambilu-Jordaan – the cubs father

At this point we moved to get a better view of them on the other side, not being too far from the junction Elephant skull and Weaver’s nest road, we could be with them in a minute or 2. Just as we arrived to where they were relaxing, something caught their attention, tails were twitching like mad! Following their gaze I could see another larger leopard approaching out of the bush from the South, my heart was in my mouth I saw it was a male, but luckily it took moments to realise it was Yambilu-Jordaan…their father! He had seen them! Karula was nowhere in sight and I wondered how he would react as he strolled out into the open.

 Y-J and his daughter Xivindzi!

Xivindzi took the initiative, obviously she recognized him as a leopard to trust. She eagerly walked right up to him and greeted him, even took a swipe at his nose! Xivambalana took his time but also came to greet his father but didn’t get as warm a response as his sister did! Once again Yambilu-Jordaan looked like he was taking on babysitting duty!

Yambilu-Jordaan and his son Xivambalana

The cubs soon tired of dad and started to make their way back across the drainage line at which point he started to follow. Unable to see any of them we once again moved giving us a better view of the Northern side of the drainage line. Literally where we had first seen Xivindzi there was another leopard who the cubs had gone to greet. I immediately thought it was Karula. It wasn’t dad they had lost interest in, it was the return of mum! This assumption was completely blown out of the water when “Karula” turned towards the camera and we could see the markings and neck of non-other than Induna!!

Arrows point to where the 4 leopards were in the same shot, although fairly close together it was one of the few times we had all 4 in shot!

So now we had 4 leopards in the sighting, I must admit I did wonder if I had miss identified Y-Jordaan and it was in fact Induna, but he would have to have flown and changed direction pretty quickly to have been the same leopard. This leopard appeared to have come from the north and looked towards where we had last seen Yambilu-Jordaan heading into the drainage line. Moving once again as Induna started to walk towards the drainage line, the fourth leopard was reviled for a second time We hadn’t miss id’ed him! There was a proud father sitting in the shade, with his son of almost 3 years making his way passed him and his youngest two following their brother with curiosity.

Induna on the left and Yambilu-Jordaan, his father on the right

Induna seemed to be less than interested in them and proceeded to come and sit right by the vehicle, making it difficult to see him. This was a catch 22, do we move and risk scaring him or stay put and not see what would happen if the cubs came to see him. We stayed put as Xivindzi couldn’t help herself and came to see her older brother, who didn’t greet her with open arms, being less than friendly towards her, maybe he remembers her batting him on the nose! We took the risk, Induna flinched but stayed put realising we were backing off from him. It was a little too much for Xivindzi and with a negative reaction from her brother, she removed herself.

Brothers together!

Next to investigate was Xivambalana but Induna was even more put out with this! He tried to stand his ground and snarled at his sibling when he tried to get closer, at which he just snarled back. For a little while it looked like a trews had been agreed, with both looking in different directions, but when one caught the other’s eye there were words again! Induna eventually give in and moved off for some peace and quiet!

It was fascinating to watch Xivambalana follow his brother. It was almost like a younger brother watches an elder in admiration and not getting the attention he wants so just becoming annoying instead! Yambilu-Jordaan also decided it was time to move on, stopping every so often to his mark territory.

Yambilu-Jordaan on the right and his daughter Xivindzi on the left

Induna followed his father and being almost 3 years old, he added his scent to the mix and once again Xivambalana was keen to join them! A couple of times Induna reitterated his irritation at his younger brother tagging along, each time he was dissuade for a longer period before  continuing to follow!

Induna telling his brother to stay away!

Xivindzi seemed to not want to miss out on any action, so she brought up the rear watching her male relatives go about their business! Eventually though she decided, after another irritated growl from Induna, to leave them to it and headed back towards the drainage line. We had lost visual of the boys as they headed South across the road and with Xivindzi disappearing on us, it seemed the right time to say goodbye.

Xivambalana, waiting  for his brother to move on!

While we were with this incredible sighting, we heard Karula had not been too far away from this drama. Another guide had found the remains of an impala in a marula tree close to the junction Weaver’s nest and Elephant skull road. We decided to have a quick check, so we knew where it was for afternoon drive. Sure enough it was a little way in to the bush, but there was Karula, the carcass and little Xivindzi, who was busy adding a few extra mouthfuls of breakfast to her belly! She must have gone straight back to feed once she decided to leave the boys!

Karula

What an amazing morning, the interactions between all the leopards, the lack of Karula being there to chaperone her elder son. I wonder if she was watching from her vantage point while guarding the kill to make sure Induna wasn’t going to steal it! It did look like he had come from that direction now we know a little more of the puzzle. It could have been Yambilu-Jordaan who we heard calling and Induna may have responded to the call. I have no doubt they can recognise each other’s voice. There are any number of scenarios that could account as to why they were all in the one area. One thing I know for sure was that it was magic and I hope we get chance to see more interactions between the family to try and understand more about these intriguing felines!!

Afternoon wash before bed

We did go back that afternoon, but bumped into the young family as Karula escorted her cubs towards Inga’s house where they ended up resting and digesting their meal! Xivambalana must have had more than his fair share as Xivindzi’s belly didn’t look as full as his. She seemed to be more alert and we watched as a sound caught her attention. Slowly she made her way to a bush and pulled out a young chelonian which she promptly ate. She then disappeared following what was possibly another potential snack, leaving her brother and mother behind!

Thank you once again to everyone sending in such wonderful pictures to help make the Blog possible! If anyone missed the amazing interaction here is the link to muttluver’s video on you tube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UuuXlD07Zs.

Written by Tara

 

 

 

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7 Responses to A leap of leopards!

  1. Red Robin November 4, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    It seems unusual to have so many leopards together from the same family. Do you think the idea of a leopard pride could come to fruition? Just a thought, but the fact that they tolerated each other for even a bit was interesting.
    Thanks again for the wonderful blog especially for those of us who could not stay for the entire drive. Thank you Tara
    Red Robin

  2. dorothy phillips November 4, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    I had heard about the “leapin’ leopards” drive! Good to be able to “see” it better through your wonderful descriptive sharing with us. And the photos were truly top notch as well.
    Enthusiasm is infectious! Thank you so very much.

    Dorothy

    • Dorothy Y. Pepper November 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

      Beautiful animals! Would like to go on safari there! Thanks for sharing!

      Dorothy Pepper

  3. beastfan November 4, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    Thank you so much Tara, for your descriptions of the drives!

  4. jody morrison November 5, 2011 at 12:27 am #

    This was one of the most thrilling drives I have EVER seen. I simply could not believe my eyes. After reports of male leopards killing cubs, my heart was in y throat but I should have known better; Yambili Jordaan is the most patient of dads and tolerates what other males simply would not. Glorious indeed. Thanks Tara for the chance to relive this amazing sighting

  5. Chris November 5, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    Thank you as ever Tara for your re-counts of these amazing leopards! We are not able to be on drive as often as we want to be SO we are grateful to you for recounting the amazing/dynamic lives that are happening while we sleep. This is crazy cool stuff and we pray you all will be able to continue to bring it on.

  6. Djuma November 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    Thank you everyone, I am so glad they help and certainly the pictures sent in by everyone really helps to illustrate such a complex sighting! :) It truly was one of the best leopard sightings I have ever had the privileged of seeing! :)

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