In the MalaMala Game Reserve, a female leopard displayed a fascinating demonstration of maternal instincts and hunting education when she seized a young impala lamb, transforming it into a valuable training exercise for her burgeoning cubs. Michael Botes, a 34-year-old field guide, had the privilege of witnessing this captivating scene.
The protagonist of this remarkable story is the Nkoveni female leopard, accompanied by her two young female cubs, as they strolled through an open clearing within the MalaMala game reserve. The cubs, in their typical playful manner, followed their mother at a safe distance. As they approached the bush line, the Nkoveni female veered towards a small thicket and retrieved a recently born impala lamb hidden there by its vigilant mother.
Notably, the mother leopard did not dispatch the lamb immediately but instead carried it tenderly toward her cubs, offering them a live impala as a practical lesson in hunting. The larger of the two cubs wasted no time in seizing the impala from the Nkoveni female and ascended a nearby tree with its prey. Instinctively, she sought to safeguard her prize, distancing it from her mother and sibling.
However, an unexpected challenge arose when the impala, still very much alive, began to kick and subsequently fell from the tree to the ground. Swiftly, the other cub swooped in and snatched the opportunity, seizing the impala and darting off to a distance. What ensued was a 40-minute spectacle of both cubs taking turns in their attempts to subdue the agile impala. Eventually, one of the cubs managed to secure a grip on the impala’s neck and delivered the decisive bite, leading to the lamb’s demise.
Following this pivotal moment, all three leopards converged on the lifeless impala, partaking in a collective feast. They meticulously tore through the tender underbelly’s soft skin, leaving no morsel behind as they meticulously stripped the tiny carcass clean. Witnessing this scene was both heart-rending and captivating, offering a poignant insight into the intricate way leopards impart vital hunting skills to their young progeny.
Watch the encounter in the video below.