Tracking Leopard on Foot

I was very fortunate to go tracking with Scotch yesterday morning. We had picked up leopard tracks earlier in the morning and went back after breakfast to follow up.

The tracks consisted of one adult female and two cubs (the female is a resident to the south east of camp and is nicknamed Ntombela meaning 'Little Lady').

The tracks went south along a small river line and Scotch took the lead, reading the signs in the riverbed like a book! He outlined where the cubs had played and where the female had returned to collect the two mischievous youngsters. At one point Scotch pointed out where a hyena had entered the riverbed and startled the leopard. He then showed me where the cubs had taken to cover but the female had stood her ground and the hyena had wisely moved off. It is incredible how much you can read from tracks.

It was close to midday by now and the temperatures had climbed from the early morning chill. Both Scotch and I were scanning small patches of shade along the riverline to find where the family may have chosen to lay up for the day, when we both stopped midstride and stared at a small dark patch about thirty meters away.

The 'dark patch' had not moved but we both started to make out the small features of a leopard cub! The cub was so fast asleep and he hadn't even noticed our presence, but we took no chances and backed out slowly as we hadn't seen his very protective mother as yet. We quickly made our way back to the vehicle and drove back to a view point along the river line, where I managed to get a glimpse of both cubs in the riverbed. What a privilege to see these two youngsters approximately six months old just playing in the riverbed.

Mom was nowhere to be seen so we took a few pictures and left the cubs undisturbed in their hideout! I am sure mom was not far off hunting, as with two hungry cubs to feed she would have to hunt every few days to satisfy their growing appetites.

It was a real treat to watch Scotch in action and to fully appreciate his intimate knowledge of the bush and surrounds.

Have you read about the Tanda Tula Field Camp experience, where guests spend time out walking in the bush with a guide and tracker? You can read about it by clicking here.

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