Researchers working at the reserve in Londolozi (South Africa) have observed a rather strange scene which involved a male leopard mating with two females. This is surprising behaviour for this particular feline, who is known for its solitary nature. According to specialists, this event probably took place because the two females were actually sisters.
'Because they are related and clearly know each other, they tolerate sharing,' explains Luke Hunter, researcher and chief conservation officer for the non-profit organization Panthera. 'If two unrelated territorial rival females came together, I’d expect fur to fly.' But in reality, these very territorial animals don’t normally or willingly go into others’ territory.
So then why did the elder of the two join her younger sister? According to Richard Laburn, one of the rangers at the reserve, she was probably attracted to the scene by the noise made by her sister and the male. The younger female was also probably too young to conceive, being only two and a half years old at the time, so the male then chose to mate with the eldest after numerous unsuccessful attempts.
Relatively small territories
Unlike female lions who can come into heat at any time, female leopards can’t and have to breed in their respective territories. When a female is in heat, the male begins to close in on her territory and often has to fight other males to prove dominance so that the female will allow him into her territory.
This polygamy is therefore not exactly normal when it comes to the leopard’s breeding process. However, the felines that we see in the video seem to have a relatively limited territory and number of possible partners. Considering these two factors, researchers believe that this type of behaviour is likely to happen again, although in terms of this case, the male approaching the first female seems to be caused by a limited territory.
Amy Attenborough, ranger at the reserve, noted in her blog that the male had killed the older female’s cubs several weeks before. It 'may seem crazy that she would tolerate a male that had done this to her offspring, but it is, in fact, typical behaviour.' In fact, leopards often kill the offspring of another male so that the female comes into heat again and therefore, can bear his offspring and pass on his genes.