As we were leaving Bush Lodge on our morning drive a call came over the radio. Nottins female had been found very close to Selati Camp, so we quickly started to make our way into that area. Minutes before we got to the place where one of our rangers was following the leopardess, we bumped into a male on the road.
He was walking quickly and immediately I could see there was something on his agenda. The sounds of Bush Buck alarm calling caused him to stop and listen intently. The dominant male held his head high with his ears pricked towards the sound of the disturbance. All of a sudden he took off into the brush, disappearing before we could even think of following him. Very soon after we had lost sight of him a call came over the radio that Nottins had also been lost moving swiftly through thick bush. The relocation process kicked off and we had our trackers moving around the area trying to pick up on the smallest sign of either of them.
Once we had relocated them, the leopards were side by side. We were witnessing the start of the mating process, this is what Mahlathini male must have been hurrying for. Because of the solitary nature of these cats there is always tension when they get together and they couldn’t have made it more noticeable. Huge amounts of aggression were being displayed and the mood was tangible. Nottins was presenting herself every few minutes and the mating was intense.
This is the third attempted mating session for Nottins in the last few weeks. After mating with Xihangelas, she was shown the door by Maxabeni and now has her sights set on Mahlathini. Very strategic family planning by the experienced female. With majority of the mature males in the area believing the cubs are theirs, she can move around her territory with very little threat. Forty percent of leopard cubs are killed by other leopards so this is a way of ensuring a small amount of security.
We await the arrival of her cubs with bated breath. Will her extra effort with each of these males pay off or will she have to again move east with her cubs to try and fall under the ‘watchful’ eye of Xihangelas?