It’s Monday 25th July 2005 and the Tena Tena Leopards

In October 2001 I saw my first Tena Tena leopard. It was day time, and it was sitting in classic leopard pose up a sausage tree.

Zero Zero Zero Zero

Meet “0-0” (Zero Zero – ie not spot marking above the whisker line – pics above), an extremely relaxed and patient (with us!) large female who we have the good fortune of seeing on a very regular basis. 0-0 spends most of her time around Baka Baka, a very picturesque lagoon in the centre of our viewing area that always attracts a wonderful variety of wildlife, especially in the dry season when other water sources have dried up and therefore the perfect food larder!

This first sighting for me was even more exciting because 0-0 had two little cubs with her – only about two months old. One was a female and the other a male. I never saw them again until camp reopened in June the following year. By now they were very playful and inquisitive, and they soon became completely relaxed in the presence of our vehicles.

2-2 big brother

Meet “2-2” (above left) and “big brother” (above right) who remained with 0-0 into the season of 2003. By the end of that year we began to see less and less of Big Brother, and as is the norm, he eventually headed off to find his own territory.

2-2 on the other hand stayed around, and established her own core territory within her mums – an indication that there was more than enough food around for the two of them. The area that she chose happened to have Tena Tena right smack bang in the middle, and she therefore tends to be a frequent visitor to the camp…..and we subsequently get to spend lots of time with her, and I have to say that she really does seem to enjoy the company!

Anyway, at the beginning of this year we came back to find 0-0 with a new litter of cubs. Again, a male and a female, though the female has since died – in fact we only saw her twice. But the young male – about five/six months old, is already proving to be an absolute star, and is becoming more and more relaxed around our vehicles. Mum will often leave him with us as she goes off to hunt providing some magical viewing. (pic below)

the young male

One evening a civet wondered past 0-0 and was badly mauled by her and this poor thing then became the cub’s new toy! For well over an hour we watched him as he stalked and harassed it before loosing interest and going off to sleep in the long grass in front of us.

About a month after we first saw 0-0’s new cubs, Rocky called me to come and see 2-2 who he had found at one of her usual haunts – she had just had her first litter, and there in the middle of the afternoon was mum and one tiny little dark ball of fur, who could only have been a few weeks old, playing and nursing. “Tiny”, as it is now called (as yet don’t know sex or markings) is a regular sighting though she can be a little bit shy, but we’re sure that she will also become as relaxed as her mum.

We don’t tend to name animals out here (become attached, and they usually die) but as we have such frequent sightings of the leopards  it’s so much easier knowing who we are talking about. Tena Tena’s main viewing area is under 30 sq km’s, and in this area we have four known female leopards – 0-0 is mum to 3 of them, the fourth called “Grumpy” (pic below left) utilises the north of Tena. And “South Loop” (pic below right) hangs out at the very south of our viewing area.

Grumpy South Loop

Very excitingly, in the last couple of days while I have been away Rocky has informed me that she now also has a cub!!!!! Then we have two males that we see from time to time. They are much shyer than the females and I am sure that we see more of them, but it’s hard to identify them – the next photo is of our largest and more relaxed male (pic below). So really quite a phenomenal concentration for such a small area!

our largest and more relaxed male

We have the most incredible sightings of these leopards, and they really seem to be much more sociable than we are led to believe. We have on various occasions seen 2-2 and 0-0 sharing kills with one or other of the males, and two seasons ago watched dad, 0-0, 2-2 and big brother playing together in one of our ebony groves in the middle of the afternoon – completely unheard of……We will of course keep documenting the lives of all the leopards that we see. I am sure they will keep providing us with wonderful times and sights, and we keep fingers crossed for the three little ones as they fight through their first couple of years in the world. We will of course try and send regular photo and news updates for you.


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