So let’s start with saying this is not your usual love story!
I am sure a lot of you haven’t yet had the chance to experience a pair of mating leopards, well let me tell you from experience that is one of the most bizarre scenes you will ever witness.The following occured at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in South Africa.
Both the female and male leopard are territorial and solitary animals, meaning in most situations you will see a leopard on their own.
Once a female is in oestrus (ready to mate) she will advertise by calling out and her knight in shining armor will come to her.
Once the two are together, the leopardess will flirt with him by swaying, rubbing up against and flaunting herself in front of him, giving him the go ahead, this is when things will start to heat up. The copulation will take no longer than 5-10 seconds and it is a vicious affair, once mounted the male will land up biting the female’s neck showing dominance over her all while a lot of growling and snarling is going on, she will eventually turn around throwing him off and giving him a firm slapping. Romantic right?
So, you may ask, why is this leopardess acting a little crazy? Believe it or not, there is a reason as to why this exchange happens the way it does.
Cats are what we refer to as induced ovulators, meaning they require a marathon mating session where copulation will take place many times during the 3-4 days that this affair occurs until fertilization can take place. But why all the aggression? Well to help with inducing the female and assuring pregnancy, the male leopard has what is referred to as a barbed penis which scraps the walls of the reproductive canal to stimulate ovulation.
This process can of course be a little uncomfortable for her hence the slapping together with her displeasure of being submissive. This copulation can occur up to 100 or more times. Talk about being hot and cold.
But like most things in life, there is always a silver lining and little rays of sunshine at the end of the story. The male leopard will eventually have his days of sleep and the leopardess, with a gestation period of about 100 days, has the challenge of raising precious spotty little cubs. All we can say is good luck!
BLOG BY LOUISE MURRAY (EARTH LODGE RANGER)
IMAGES BY LOUISE MURRAY AND FREDERIK AUCAMP
Post courtesy of Sabi Sabi