A 10 month old killerPhotographer : Jerome Kiel (Game ranger, Leopard Trails)
A leopard cub’s first kill of a medium sized mammal like a deer is a right of passage, a coming of age which signals to his mother that it is transitioning into an adult, and why not? Leopard’s are solitary and once fully independant they leave their mother in search of new territory. For some however, graduation day comes early and may not signal an immediate transition to independence! Last evening, in the midst of a torrential downpour, our honeymoon guests were taken aback as a deer flew into the air with a leopard attached to his throat! The 2:3 Kotabendhi cub of 2015 had successfully stalked and killed a spotted deer not too far from Kotabendhi wewa in front of our very eyes. However, at approximately 10 months old this cub will probably spend another 8 to 12 months with its mother. The victim appeared to be a young deer which means the cub will need a lot more practice before it leaves its mother.
For as long as I can remember, the thalgasmankada – kotabandhi area has been a hive of leopard activity in block 1. With the river and 2 to 3 water holes being in close proximity, the area is perfectly suited to carry a high density of prey. Litter after litter have successfully graduated from this arena but what is truly unique about this incident is the age of this leopard cub. I would imagine that the sense of hearing, smell, and sight of the deer would have been somewhat impaired in the rain and hence perhaps it was the rain that swung the odds in the cubs favour. It is difficult to pin point an age at which a young leopard will make its first kill of a deer but in general 9 months to 11 months is considered very young. Some say that 12 to 15 months is more the norm but in reality we do not know for sure.
Despite the leopard density of Yala, leopard kills are seldom seen, making a kill sighting extremely special for our team as well as our guests. Strangely however, it is this very cubs mother, the 1:2 Kotabendhi female who we witnessed bringing down a large spotted deer at Thalgasmankada on the 2nd of February 2014, several months before the little 2:3 Kotabendhi cub was even conceived!
Enjoy the photos and bear with the poor photo quality due to rain, a basic camera, and too much adrenaline!