Sabi Sabi yesterday, today, tomorrow

leopard ménage a trois

by Richard de Gouveia on December 8, 2011

So there I was a few days ago saying how rare it is to see three leopards all together and here I am again writing about the same thing, but with a different dynamic. As I sat watching the three leopards the other day all interacting, fighting and growling, I could not help to think that this was just amazing and would probably be the last time I get to see such amazing interaction. Well here is the story about my second leap of leopards in a week…

male leopard at sabi sabi

make leopard at sabi sabi on safari night drive

We had already spent a bit of time with the lions that were doing what they do best…sleep…and were heading off to enjoy a nice sundowner. KG, one of the rangers from Selati Camp, had come to drive at Little Bush Camp for a few nights and he had stumbled upon a female leopard. As he followed this female a big male came out and started interacting with her. She got particularly excited and started rubbing herself on all the trees, scent marking and making her intentions clear. These are the same two leopards that were in the sighting the other day and now that her 2 year old son was not around she clearly had intentions other than protecting her son.

leopards mating while on safari game drive at sabi sabi

The time had come when she had finally decided to leave her son to his own devices and start the next litter of cubs. This is clearly the reason why the male had joined her and her son earlier in the week. The beginning of a mating session is always a little tense and KG caught this little bit of action on video before they settled down to the mating.

While enjoying a drink and listening to what was happening on the radio I heard that a third leopard had joined the other two. There was no mention as to the fact that they were mating and which leopards were there so I was oblivious to the composition of the group. I merely assumed that it was her son that had joined them again. Once we finished with drinks we headed off to see what was happening and stumbled into one of the best sightings of my life.

leopards mating at sabi sabi

leopards mating while on safari game drive at sabi sabi

As we drove off-road to get closer to the leopards, through the foliage, we saw a small leopard running off. She seemed a little cautious of the vehicle, which is not normally the case with any of the leopards on our reserve, and this left me wondering which leopard it was. Solly, my tracker, then told me to get moving to the other 2 as they were just about to mate. I was a little bleak that we missed the action but didn’t have to wait long for the next round. The male moved off to the younger female and mated with her and then the older female moved in and mated with the male no more than 30 seconds after his last session.

leopards mating

leopards mating at sabi sabi

I was dumbstruck! Not only was I seeing three leopards in the same sighting for the second time in a week but the male was mating with two totally unrelated females. There was absolutely no animosity between the females and the male just kept hopping from one to the next. The older female, intent on keeping him to herself, flaunted herself relentlessly and we watched as he mated with her every 2 minutes.

leopards mating at sabi sabi

After about half an hour he started to tire and his aggression towards her was clearly saying that he needed a break. The next thing we heard the other female start calling and he immediately got up and went straight over to her and mated with her again. What an incredible hour and a half of pure interaction by my favourite animal!

by: Richard de Gouveia (Little Bush Camp ranger)

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

syl December 9, 2011 at 4:21 am

Richard….I could feel your excitement as I read. Your photos are breath taking…what an awesome sighting for you all.

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syl December 9, 2011 at 4:40 am

Do we have names to put with these leopards?

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jody morrison December 9, 2011 at 4:50 am

This is amazing. Do you know who the male is? Or the two females? Seems like leopards all over the Sabi Sands are behaving in unusual ways. Thanks for this wonderful footage

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sepp December 9, 2011 at 4:56 am

I haven’t been to Sabi Sabi for a few years but I’d love to go back and be able to identify these leopards with a territorial name. It makes them so much easier to follow and understand their personalities. Great shots and story by the way.

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honey badger December 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Only one word WOW! The pictures are incredible and your story wonderful.

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ranger rich December 10, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Thanks so much for the replies guys! It was an amazing sighting and I love having a good plaform to share it on! With regards to the names, the male is called “bicycle crossing” and we call him xihangelas (pronounced shi-hun-ga-las) which means the destroyer after he killed one of these two females last cub.

The older female (the one in the first video) is called ‘Young Nottins’ and the second female we are still trying to get an I’d on!

Hope this helps! Have a great day!

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syl December 10, 2011 at 11:20 pm

thanks for that info Richard.

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hill van schalkwyk December 11, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Hallo Richard
Hope you are well? Exciting to read something we were preveledge to be part of in some way! We enjoyed our stay with you and many thanks for the vast amount of “new” information you shared with us. Also the photography lessons were great and I learnt a lot from you……you walked the extra mile and I appreciated it!
Trust we will meet again……

Hill and Kathryn

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hill van schalkwyk December 11, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Richard
When can we come to see the “results” in the form of the babies!!???
Hill

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ranger rich December 12, 2011 at 10:22 am

Hey Hill…great to hear from you! The the cubs will be born around mid march next year and we won’t be able to view them for the first 4 weeks so as not to stress them out. Best time to come see them would be around may 2012 but this is all reliant on whether or not they survive! Would be great to see you guys again!

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doris charles January 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Oh this is something thank you for sharing and
showing the mating, have you found out who they are i would love to know.

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ranger rich January 3, 2012 at 9:09 am

Hi Doris
The male is called xihangelaas or bicycle crossing male and the first female in the video is an unknown female. The second female is known as nottins and is a regular visitor to our reserve!

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