Dave Pusey

NAME: Dave Pusey





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Smallest of the “Big” Cats!

This diary entry took place at Leopard Hills

Weeks of anticipation, many hours of speculation and patient waiting at den sites but most importantly A LOT of luck have culminated in a select few mother leopard and cub sightings that must rank right up there with the top moments in my guiding career.

Little “Big” cats have always had an intriguing allure about them, especially those of the usually elusive Panthera pardus…The cute facial expressions, curiosity , ongoing playfulness and magical moments of interaction between mother and cub.

We have just appreciated a rather unique situation where Leopard Hills lodge in the Western Sabi Sand has been sandwiched in between the territories of 2 extremely relaxed female leopards that gave birth at roughly the same time. This situation has been brought about by the stability offered by a strong dominant male that has now been in the area for a year and has successfully mated with both females, sometimes within half an hour of each other.

While the cubs are still small, their mother carries them to a new hiding place every few days to lessen their chance of falling prey to lions, hyenas, or even intruding male leopards. At this stage in their growth, the spots on their coats are so dense that they appear to be solid gray. Their milky blue eyes, characteristic of the young of all species of cat, open after roughly 9 days.

After observing lactation stains and suckle marks on both females plus their behaviour of constantly moving back to the same hiding places, we knew there were cubs hidden! We are very sensitive to vehicle impact at den sites so it was a matter of hoping and waiting until the situation was favourable. It was at 6 weeks old that we were rewarded and they came out to play!

Our first glimpse was this 6 week old cub that bravely ventured out into the world, first peeping through mom’s front legs and then confidently, with a paw for safety firmly attached to mom’s rear end, told off a passing elephant.

Then 2 weeks later at 8 weeks old, one of my bucket list sightings unfloded in front of us…a mother leopard carrying a cub in her mouth. He became too curious for her liking and ventured out over the rocks, so she gently picked up the heavy little chap up and placed him back in his hiding spot.

The other 2 images I also had to share, one for the cuteness factor of a cub on top of mom's head trying to wake her up and the other of a blue eyed cub in golden evening light!

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