Many many times I have been asked by guests why the animals do not run away, or attack, or act differently when we see them. My response is that the animals are used to us, which they are. We are part of their natural environment, their back drop of everyday life. With the cats, like Lion and Leopard, this takes great amount of time and effort by the rangers. With Leopard, if the mother is habituated, (used to the vehicles), then her cubs will be as well but if the mother is skittish then the cubs will be skittish.
This morning my Tracker Nick and I tracked and found two of our Leopards, the Hoedspruit male and female one and a half year old sub-adults. Their mother is not a habituated Leopard. She tolerates us from time to time but since the cubs were born we have been working with and viewing them and now, just as they’re about to set off into adult hood, they are getting more and more relaxed by the day. We were able to view them in bright daylight while they were relaxed, played, inspected us, groomed, and acted as young Leopards do. A few months ago they would have not been so relaxed. A second vehicle joined us in the sighting and they stayed relaxed, just moving from the sun into the shade. Again, a few weeks ago they would not have tolerated the second vehicle.
For us, because we’ve watched these cats grow from tiny furballs into the gorgeous creatures they are becoming, it’s very much like watching your children grow up and it’s with pride and huge smiles that we enjoy sightings like my Tracker, Guests, and I had this morning.
By: Noelle DiLorenzo – River Lodge Ranger