Upon return from the marsh in the deep south of the reserve, myself and Ruth where discussing why no female leopard has succesfully conceived and had cubs in the last 2 years. There are a few different females within the heart of the reserve, all of age to mate, but yet still no single one has conceived.
Whilst in the height of this detailed discussion on the potential variables involved for the lack of these leopards having cubs, we abruptly stumbled upon a very relaxed female leopard lying next to a pan. Before even picking up the binoculars to have a look at the leopard, Ruth and I looked at each other completely speechless as the words we had been muttering literally a few seconds before, where related to exactly what we now laid our eyes upon.
When she got up and walked past the front of our vehicle, we realised that not only did we just find a female leopard, but we had just discovered one that was heavily pregnant, or had already given birth?
Only a day later did it dawn upon me. On the 16th November 2015 during a private C4 Photo Vehicle safari we had the priviledge of viewing a mating pair of leopards. It was a very relaxed female at around +/- 5 years of age, and a very skittish male leopard that we know only by the tracks he leaves behind. On noticing a prominent scar below the females eye on our recent discovery down at the marsh, did I source back to the mating leopard sighting of November the 16th.
Perfect Match!!! And to top it off a leopard gestation period is a little over 3 months! It has been approximately 15 weeks since we saw the pair, and taking into account she would of conceived towards her mating period of just under a week, the figures confirm everything.
We now know for a fact that she will give birth any moment now, or already has? It will take over 2 months for her to expose her cubs and for us to view them as they will be too small at that young and very tender age. Lets hope by easter this year the gift we recieve will be in the form of a new and viewable litter of leopard cubs!
NOVEMBER 16th, 2015
The mating pair of leopards on 16th November 2016.
One of the very few sightings I have ever had of this ghostly giant male leopard
Completely relaxed in the presence of vehicles.
The wary male
The unmistakable scar below the right eye and the chipped right canine tooth
THE DISCOVERY OF THE PREGNANT OR LACTATING FEMALE, 1st MARCH 2016
Although it can be confused with a full belly from feeding, the charecteristic 'pouch' that hangs closer to the hind quarters differentiates the two.
No blatently obvious signs of suckling, and the heavy set belly?
An incredibly beautiful female