leopard with cubs and an impala kill
We set out on an afternoon game drive on a very hot summer's day with the intention of finding the resident female leopard with her two cubs. As it was really hot we figured that the leopards should still be in the same area where they had been seen that morning, probably hiding in the shade of a nearby tree.
We decided to first circle the area to see if perhaps there were any tracks of the female leopard and her two cubs coming out of the bush and onto the sand road. Halfway through our circle we spotted a few buffalo and a white rhino grazing happily together on an open area, despite the intense 40°C heat!
We spent a few minutes with the buffalo and rhino and then continued with our mission to relocate the leopards. As we approached the spot where they were last seen that morning another ranger announced on the radio that he had just found them, not even 100 meters from where we were...awesome!
The leopard and cubs came into view and then continued walking down the road right in front of us, and as we followed them it became clear that something was up. It is very unusual for leopards to be seen with their cubs, moving in broad daylight on an exceptionally hot day, so there had to be serious motivation for her to brave the heat.
We continued to follow the leopard family for another 20 minutes when it dawned on us that she was heading directly to an open area where a very large herd of impala had been grazing. But surely she couldn't be trying to hunt in broad daylight with her two cubs tagging along? Unless she had already made a kill earlier that morning and was taking her cubs to it... Yes, that had to be it!
Before long we came to the open area which was suspiciously devoid of impala. The mother led her cubs around a small shrub and what do you know, there was a fully grown male impala carcass on the ground, only half hidden behind a shrub!
The female leopard lay down near the kill and her cubs wasted no time and immediately started pawing at the impala, trying to chew their way through the skin which was a little thick for their young jaws - but eventually they got through to the meat and tucked into a huge feast.
The cubs, which we estimated to be around 8 months old, also decided to practice their throat grips on the already dead impala, skills which will no doubt be vital to their future survival.
The mother eventually decided to have a go at the impala herself, and made a meal it. It was amazing to witness the scene that had unfolded in front of our very eyes! We spent most of the evening game drive with the leopards and their dinner, until it was time to head back to the lodge for our own meal.
By the next evening the leopard had taken her kill up a nearby tree; and as I write this, she and the cubs are probably only just finishing the last remains of the impala kill...