WWF Senior Writer, Deborah Ackerman had a rare and thrilling sight while accompanying a Nat Hab trip through Botswana, a mother leopard hiding two of her young cubs. Below is a photo essay and video documenting this exhilarating experience.
When we first caught up with the female leopard, she had already hidden one cub inside a hollow log and had left it there, walking back in the direction she came from. Our expedition leader was sure this meant she was going back to get a second cub.
After walking over a mile in near 100-degree heat across the KAZA landscape, she finally stopped and rested for a moment in what little shade was available.
While resting, she started making repeated short, low, gentle sounds in her throat—calling quietly to the baby to let it know she was nearby.
Then she went to where she’d hidden the baby, inside a fallen log well hidden in the brush. Though she was nearly obscured from our view, we could hear her pawing at the log and then we saw her stick her head inside.
She emerged, carrying the cub gently in her mouth. The cub was only a few days old, and its eyes were not yet opened. It remained mostly motionless as she walked with it.
After making her third mile-long trek of the day, she and the cub finally approached the log she’d left her first infant in. She crawled inside…
…and disappeared. In this photo you can still see a tiny fleck of her tail, but that was soon gone, too. We all commented on how you just never know what might confront you in the wild…any person walking by there would certainly have never known there was a top line predator just inches away from them, protecting her young!
A mother leopard carrying her newborn cub across the KAZA landscape during green season—the time of year when most animals in Botswana’s Okavango Delta give birth.
By Deborah Ackerman, Senior Writer, WWF