Have you had the pleasure of bumping into somebody you haven’t seen for ages and thinking, I’m sure that’s Fred (or Jim, or whatever)? Or have you sat across a room from a familiar face and wondered where you’ve seen it before? Or, have you met someone, made their acquaintance, and then wondered, years later, whatever happened to them?
A couple of weeks ago, I was reading ‘Tales from the bush’ on the back page of BBC Wildlife magazine. The story by photographer, John Weir, centred on a female leopard and two six-week old cubs he had seen in Botswana in July 2014 and how, two years later, Ben, another photographer sent him photos of the same mother and one cub. John was delighted that the leopard and, at least one cub, were still alive.
‘That’s my leopard’, was the first thing that entered my mind. She’s blind in her left eye. We’d seen mother and two cubs in Botswana with an impala kill. One of the cubs was shy and sloped off early in the encounter, while the other hung around for photos. I was so convinced that I sent photos of ‘my leopard’ and its cubs to BBC Wildlife with a short story of how I had photographed what I thought was the same mother with cubs in November of the same year. The magazine sent my mail on to John and he confirmed that the leopard was the same one, identified by its damaged eye, its markings, and a tear in its ear. The age of my cubs is consistent with those photographed by John and it looks like the cub photographed in 2016 by Ben is one of ‘mine’.
Wildlife is so unpredictable. Young leopards are often predated by lions. Some studies suggest that 50% of cubs will survive their first year with only 32% making it through to independence. It’s great, therefore, to know that at least one that gave us such pleasure as we watched and photographed it for a few hours in the Okavango Delta back in 2014 was two years old, maybe now three, and, seemingly, doing well. A credit to a mother who has protected and provided for it throughout what will have been some very precarious times.
The cubs, below, are the two juveniles from 2014. Go to ‘Leopard’ in the Africa section of my site for the full batch of images, at the kill, relaxing, and climbing a tree like only leopards can climb…