As a photographic safari guide, I get to witness amazing things in the bush – lions and hyenas battling it out over a fresh buffalo kill, giraffes giving birth and elephants submerging themselves in rivers with only the tips of their trunks sticking out. But nothing comes close to watching a tiny leopard cub grow up…and I was fortunate enough to document just that while guiding for Tusk Photo at Elephant Plains Game Lodge in the Sabi Sands.
Salayexe is arguably the most relaxed and most photographed leopardess in the northern parts of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Elephant Plains Game Lodge is in the heart of her territory and we see her very frequently on drives. As a mother, her record is poor. Only two cubs from her first seven litters survived, so when she gave birth again on the 4th of May 2015, we waited with bated breath to see whether the little ones would make it. Sadly only one did…but she’s still alive today!
I saw Tiyani for the first time on the 21st of June 2015. She was just over seven weeks old then and still very shy of our game drive vehicle. Salayexe was her relaxed self, but kept a close eye on the little one, making sure she’s always close to a good hiding place, like a thorny thicket or hole under a fallen tree trunk.