A misty, cold and rainy morning left us sleeping in and skipping the morning safari. We decided to head out into the bush straight after breakfast. With the sun finally shining confidently and the clouds drifting away, we knew it was our cue to leave the lodge. I heard from the rangers that a female leopard made an impala kill and she was found guiding her cub to feed on the soft and fresh meat.
We headed out and I drove exactly to where this female was found. To my concern I had no visual of the female or her cub and this caused us to search around the area for her elusive appearance. Finally we found her on a broken down Marula tree and to our shock we found her contact calling to her young cub that was hidden in the thicket surroundings.
She started calling more vigorously and alarmingly and her calls left us speechless and worried. She started walking around looking desperately in every direction and soon we figured out that her call attracted the only animal she was trying to avoid. Out of nowhere we heard rustling in the bush and through the long grass we watched a big male leopard approach her with determination and pure anger with his mouth left salivating profusely.
She was walking away with no idea that behind her was the male that she had not mated with and it was clear that he was coming to find her and her cub. The male stalked her for about 100 meters and the next second, in one big flash, he decided to pounce on her and started a battle of clashes between the two of them. They were in the air, claw to claw, head bashing and jaw jabbing and this was a fight I thought would be to the death.
He then walked away with a cut lip and his nose in the air, trying to pick up on the scent of the precious little cub hiding away and nowhere to be seen. She followed closely and the tension was at its ultimate level. We sat in total silence with their intimidating calls penetrating our chests and we were petrified knowing what the end result will be.
The male found her kill and started feeding as she lay only a few meters away, showing her motherly love and life skills, willing to risk her life to protect her young. The tension eased up and she lay helpless calling for her cub. Is her cub safe or will the intruder male leave her continuing her journey alone?