Respect your elders, even if they displace you from your meal and bully you into submission. That seems to be the perfect narration for the recent sequence of events to have unfolded on the Umkumbe traverse. Mxabene is a dominant, powerful male leopard that patrols his turf with pride and vigour. Male leopards tend to occupy quite a large territory that overlaps with a number of female’s territories. In this case, White Dam the ever graceful leopardess we’ve come to know and love, is often spotted in Max’s area. White Dam has two sub-adult cubs that we know of, the male being the one we spot on a regular basis – the one who is the fallen hero of this story. Old enough to conduct expertly conducted kills on his own, but slightly naive and lacking street smarts, White Dam’s male cub is forging his way on new turf and finding his feet. However, dominant leader Max is the ultimate opportunist and decided to steal a kill from this youngin’ !
The cub took down an impala, dragged it into a tree for safekeeping and decided to find the perfect position to devour his meaty meal. Ranger Nadia Bester says that his choice of tree wasn’t ideal (located on top of a termite mound), making for an uncomfortable position. Somewhat unbalanced and possibly vulnerable, Max sensed that it was time to emerge from the thickets and use the situation to his advantage. Max approached and stole the kill while the cub immediately became submissive. The cub, however, decided to stand his ground and waited patiently in the hopes of getting his kill back.
When leopards become of age, they will remain on the periphery of their mother’s territory, where their presence is mildly tolerated. They might even conduct kills with their mother from time to time, while they learn how to ward off leopard thieves, gain street smarts and identify enemies. We can already see from these photos that this cub is trying to establish its own territory. Notice the cheek rubbing on the shrubbery – a key identifier in territorial markings. They actually transfer their scent from their cheeks onto the shrubbery. They will also claw areas to claim territory and visuals for enemies.
Better luck next time, youngster – keep trying and growing in confidence!