The Panthera cameras on the Somkhanda Esikhotheni Zimanga Leopard Survey captured images of a mating pair of Leopards which was, ironically during February, the month of love.
Leopards don’t have a distinctive breeding season so will mate at any time of the year. The romantic interlude between the two cats lasts for up to five days with mating occurring every 15 minutes or so. The reason for the numerous copulations is because the female may not necessarily be ovulating when she meets a male who has caught her eye. Therefore, the stimulus of mating will kick start the ovulation process for the female.
After a short gestation period of 90 – 105 days the female will give birth to 2 – 4 cubs. They give birth in a cave, crevice among boulders, inside a hollow tree or even in a thicket. The cubs are born with their eyes shut and rely heavily upon their Mother for food and protection. Only after a period of 4 to 9 weeks do their eyes open and they start to explore their home.
Leopard cubs remain with their mother for 18 – 24 months before venturing off on their own. What is truly incredible is the fact that the mortality rate of Leopard cubs ranges between 41 – 50% during the first year! The mother will raise her cubs without any assistance from their father. She will fend for, feed and love her cubs until they are sexually mature and ready to ‘leave the nest’.
The photograph of this mating pair is an incredibly positive sign for the Somkhanda Game Reserve. If the copulation of these two gorgeous felines is a success it will hopefully boost the current population of Leopards which currently reside within the reserve.
Fingers crossed and let’s hope the Leopard mother has luck on her side and will successfully be a Super Mom!
Post by: Lisa Thomas