Jomi Krobb of the Marataba Safari Lodge explains how he and his fellow guides have been busy with leopard cub habituation over the last two months.
In February, Gerhard, one of the guides stumbled upon the female in question at a termite mound with a tiny cub. Almost two months went past before we saw any signs of the cubs again.
At the beginning of April we found the mother, this time with three cubs. The mother was highly nervous and we knew we had a challenge on our hands if we ever wanted to see these cubs with guests in a relaxed environment.
Since then the Marataba guides have been putting in lots of extra hours habituating these animals in a meticulous and extremely sensitive process.
We were lucky enough to find the den site of the cubs. It was possible for one vehicle to sit and observe the leopards if they were around, anymore and they wouldn’t have remained visible.
The vehicle would only have one or two guides in it to minimise noise and impact. Respecting the leopards and their den site is our main aim. The best time to see them is early morning and late afternoon when these cats are most active. We never view the cubs at night as we don’t want to attract the attention of other predators.
Initially the cubs were quite shy but as they grew older and became more accustomed to the vehicles they began to explore their surroundings. We always made sure that the mother was around before viewing the cubs as we did not want to distract their attention from remaining undetected and picking up on other predator activity.
After a month of this careful habituation process we decided that the cubs were ready to be viewed by the guests. Quite a few of our guests in the last week have been fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the cubs and their mother. All three cubs are in extremely good shape as is their tireless mother, who is restlessly providing for them.
It is quite difficult for a mother to raise three cubs but the older they get, the better their chances of survival become. For now their future looks extremely promising.
Read the true story of Graham Cooke raising two leopard cubs – My Life With Leopards – Graham Cooke’s Story