The Sabi Sand in the greater Kruger National Park in South Africa are famous for their leopard sightings. And because one can see leopards pretty often, it is possible to follow their family life quite good, especially when working as a ranger and being out in the bush every day.
Leopards have territories. The female territories usually do not overlap, but the male territory overlaps or rather covers the territories of a couple of females. These are the females he is mating with. Often female leopards stay close to their mom and set up territory next to her. Leopards are not as solitary as one might think, they usually only don’t want to be seen and that makes that we can’t follow their movements. But in the Sabi Sand we can. They let us often see what they are up to and this is very interesting. Don’t get me wrong, they are wild animals, trusting that they will be left alone and not threatened by humans.
There was this one family, a male leopard, an older female, her daughter and the two cubs of the daughter. The older female, lets call her granny was already pretty old, but a strong spirit. She was more or less allowed to pick a bit more from the male leopard’s kills and also the daughter was looking after her. And granny did what grannies do. The daughter left one of her cubs with granny and granny raised the little “boy”. That gave the daughter more freedom and strength to raise the other cub and to hunt. Some days the daughter left even the cub she had with her with dad, just to check out something. And dad was staying with the cub, looking after it until it’s mother came back. It was observed that the cub thought to test daddy and slapped him with his little paw. Daddy showed the little one that he can do that too and the cub was rolling all over the place.
When observing these beautiful interactions one learns to understand leopards so much better, their close relationships and family dynamics. The little “boy” raised by granny is now a big boy and still tolerated by dad in his territory. It might be not for nothing that he looks a bit like a spoilt boy, raised by granny and having the sweet life of being allowed in the save territory of dad. He is the one on the picture above.
Granny doesn’t live anymore. She became 17 years old, a great age for a leopard in the wild. She was a very special and strong spirit.
Ute Sonnenberg for www.rohoyachui.com