We set out on our first drive, on the first morning, of our first visit to Mapungubwe National Park in early 2014. We didn’t know what to expect but we were eager and elated to be back in the bush. The vegetation was quite dense and after an initial stop to watch a congress of baboons going about their early morning routines we found the Northern fence and followed it East.
Not long afterwards we were overjoyed to spot a young leopard lazing in a tree on the perimeter of the park. He was quite happily minding his own business which is more than I can say for the squirrels that were chattering and charging him continuously.
We watched him for ages, wondering what his story was. He was evidently a young leopard, surely too young to be self-sufficient.
Cars came and went, none bothering to stop and look at the leopard. Maybe they didn’t realise how rare the sighting was?
We continued to watch as he started moving about, squirrels darting off in every direction, while we kept a lookout for his mother. Surely he couldn’t be all on his own!
After some time he came down from the tree and we re-positioned to keep an eye on him when out of the dense vegetation came a beautiful adult female leopard.
It was a joyous reunion of mother and cub. We’d been right! She had to have been out either hunting or drinking from the nearby stream.
As we watched them play and groom each other we noticed something odd about the mother. She appeared to be blind in her left eye. We zoomed in with the cameras and noticed her left eye was in fact injured. The wound didn’t appear to be fresh but she was surely blind in that eye.
Eventually the pair moved off and we carried on with our trip. The conversation for the next few days focused on what we’d seen.
Leopards are solitary predators and to have one, half blind, draws home the immense struggle that she must have to go through, not only to survive herself, but to raise and support a cub too.
There is no pack or herd support structure for her. It is only what she can do by herself.
Mother’s Day has recently passed here in South Africa and I would like to give a belated shout-out to this incredible mother who defied the odds against her in support of her family.
Well done ma’am, well done indeed!