The Leopard. (Panthera pardus) is one of the five BIG CATS. They are elusive, solitary and largely nocturnal. In the classical era a leopard was believed to be a hybrid of a lion and a panther, as is reflected in its name. The Leopard owes its huge hunting success to its well camouflaged fur, remarkable vision, exceptional hearing, good sense of smell, its opportunistic hunting behavior, broad diet, strength to move heavy carcasses into trees and its ability to adapt to various habitats to mention a few.
Leopards are amazing creatures and we can go on and on about them but today is not that day. Today I tell the story about one specific leopard. Her name is Lorian, she is about 7 years old and lives in Masai Mara, Kenya. I got to meet her on the last trip I made to Mara in September 2015. It’s a rarity to find a leopard and her cub. They normally hide in a thicket, caves or holes on the ground. But on this occasion, actually my first day of my 7 day trip, Lorian was on a small anthill just laying there and playing with her 2 month old beautiful cub. It was a sight for sore eyes and a great opportunity for photography!
The cub would jump up and down on her mum, you could even see her predator instincts kick in too as she would try and perform the “kill bite” on her mama and in the most cute way you can imagine. I spent almost two hours there, in awe of the playful cub, until there was no more light left – photographically speaking. If you have watched how a leopard or any big cat behaves around their young one, you will agree with me that its the strongest bond you will ever witness, an unbreakable bond. A bond that will push their mothers to fight bigger predators to protect their offsprings even to their own death.
Mortality of cubs is estimated at 40-50% during the first year. Something as natural as one day’s heavy down pour, overflow of a river, a hyena passing by or a lion patrolling his territory, poses a fatal risk for a young cub left alone while the mother goes out to hunt. That said, I was happy to see that Lorian had been able to protect her cub for over 2 months. It would be just one more month at which age leopard cubs begin to follow their mothers on hunts. That would mean Lorain would be able to train her young one and that way keep her even safer.
A few days after I took these photographs, Lorain’s cub went missing. No one knew what had happened to the cub and for days Lorain went on a desperate search. For a month or so we all thought the cub had died. It was with huge relief when my friend from Maasai Mara called me and told me that he had spotted Lorain and her cub. The best friends are still together and their bond is stronger than ever. I can’t wait to see them again, till then its good bye from #WILDKENYA