Leopard Cub Practices Pouncing Skills on Mother

This leopard cub doesn’t have a sibling. Mommy leopard has to take an active role in honing her hunting abilities by playing with her. 😍

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All content by Michael Botes

An unforgettable sighting: Michael Botes, a senior guide at MalaMala Game Reserve, captured the whole playful performance of this sweet leopard cub.

While on a game drive, they came across a leopard and her cub relaxing and walking along a riverbed. As incredible as it is to see, it is not often you get to a first-row seat of a cub pouncing, stalking, and tackling its’ mom repeatedly.

Unfortunately, the survival rate for leopard cubs is not very high, with only about 38% making it to their first birthday. However, female leopards are exceptional mothers, and this cub’s mom is a perfect example. She energetically engages in play with her cub, teaching it essential hunting techniques through their interactions. Despite the serious nature of these lessons, they are thoroughly enjoying themselves!

Pounce after pounce, this cutie does not give up. She crouches low, wiggles her little bum, and launches for her mother. With the kindness of any good mother, she pretends to get a bit of a fright. The young cub needs to develop these techniques as a leopard’s hunting style relies on silently getting as close to their target as possible.

The pair continued along the riverbed having a leisurely afternoon together.  Although leopards are nocturnal, it is not rare to see them during the day. Female leopards typically have their first litter of cubs when they are between 2.5 to 3 years old. These newborn cubs arrive with their eyes shut and are completely vulnerable. The mother finds a secure den site to conceal them, which could be anything from a nook under tree roots to an abandoned burrow.

The cub continues to play on the entirety of their journey. Watching her launch herself into the air is truly a sight to behold. What a lucky group of tourists!

The spirited cub leaps with all her might, landing directly on top of its mother. They engage in playful wrestling and gentle biting until the mother, unable to resist her affectionate impulses, begins lovingly licking her adorable child.

Playtime appears to be over for Mom, although her cub isn’t quite ready to wind down. With saint-like patience, the leopard lounges on the sand, scanning the horizon, while her cub persistently tries to engage her.

Realizing her efforts are fruitless, the cub shifts her attention to something far more intriguing in the bushes ahead. At last, Mom might just catch a few minutes of well-deserved reprieve… hopefully!