a new beginning - alistair leuner
The last 2 years at Sabi Sabi have not been the most productive for one of our female leopards, the one we call Young Nottons. About 2 years ago she managed to successfully raise a young female cub to adulthood. This young female, known as Mbilo, is now an integral part of many rangers' safaris at Sabi Sabi. Since then Young Nottons has not been able to raise another cub to adulthood.
She had 2 cubs about a year and half ago and she showed them to us at when they were about 3 months old. We all had great sightings of these little guys until one was killed by hyenas and the other was later killed by a rogue male leopard that moved into the area. So luck was not on her side.
She was then seen mating with our dominant male leopard in January.
We all recorded this mating as we knew this might produce the next litter of Sabi Sabi leopards. Sure enough, over the coming months we began to notice her becoming larger and larger and we all knew she was pregnant. Then one morning we saw she had very fresh suckle marks on her teats and we knew for sure there were young ones, but we didn't how many there actually were.
It took another two and half months, when finally one morning we were leaving Selati Camp and as soon as one of the rangers went around the corner, there to his surprise, right in the middle of the road was Young Nottons with one cub. As soon as he saw them the ranger radioed in the sighting and I was the first to respond. He then called again to say that there were two cubs. I pulled into the sighting, and right in front of me and my guests was a new beginning for the Young Nottons female.
We managed to follow these two little fluff balls for about half an hour as they played and jumped all over their mother. She was leading them to a kill she had made and was taking them for their first proper taste of meat.
She moved off the road and headed into quite thick bush and we decided not to follow so as not to put pressure on the young family.
It was another month before we had our next sighting of these cubs. We had tracks of the mother and cubs virtually every morning but they always headed into very thick bush and we did not follow.
Then one morning one of the rangers called in an impala kill in a tree very close to Bush Lodge. When they watched on the morning safari, only the female leopard was at the kill, but when one of the rangers went to the sighting in the evening he got what we had all been waiting for: the mother and her two cubs on the kill. The family entertained our guests for three days while they fed and played. The cubs are both becoming very inquisitive with Land Rovers and are providing all the guests with some memories and pictures that will never be forgotten.
We all hope that Young Nottons can continue the good work she has been doing and raise these two gorgeous little fluff balls to adulthood - which in turn will give all the visitors who come to Sabi Sabi over the next few years an experience that they will never forget.