While on Safari in Sabi Sands we found a female leopard called Xidulu up in a tree with a duiker kill. We knew that she had two 10-week-old cubs, but at first there were no sign of them.
While we were watching Xidulu lying in the tree, she started making a very soft and gentle call. This must be mommy calling the cubs! Yes, we were in for a big surprise. Just a few seconds after the call we saw the cubs materializing from a nearby bush. They were heading our way, straight for mommy. You can imagine the excitement we experienced as we grabbed our cameras and made sure our settings were correct to capture photos of the two leopard cubs.
Xidulu jumped out of the tree and walked towards the two cubs as they approached her. She laid down and the cubs greeted her with such joy!
While Xidulu played with the cubs, I spotted an approaching figure: a Hyaena which is not what a mommy leopard would want to approach her cubs. I wasn’t sure if mommy’s gentle call to the cubs or the duiker kill perched in the tree alerted the opportunistic Hyaena.
Luckily, Xidulu heard the Hyaena before it got too close, and she quickly jumped up and approached the Hyaena. The cubs instantly picked up that danger was close, and one of the cubs ran into thickets and disappeared. The other cub decided to climb the nearest tree to hide away from the danger which gave me the most amazing photographs.
While Xidulu confronted the Hyaena, I got an interesting photo where you can see mommy leopard trying to identify the intruder (the Hyaena, located in the top left corner of the photo), but her vision was blocked by long grass. Xidulu stood her ground and hissed at the Hyaena. This was enough of a warning for the Hyaena, and Xidulu managed to chase it away.