If you only watch one adorable animal video today, make sure it's this clip of a mother leopard carefully ushering her tiny cubs across a road in South Africa's Kruger National Park.

Before South Africa adopted stay-at-home regulations, Thinus Delport visited the famous reserve with his daughters and was incredibly fortunate to come across a female leopard and her two cubs near Lower Sabie rest camp. "It was my daughter’s first visit to the Kruger and she was the first to whip out her video camera," Delport explained to Latest Sightings. "I’m glad she did because I would have been shaking so much from excitement, that the footage might have just been ruined."

Delport and his daughters watched as a cautious mama leopard surveyed her route across a stretch of open tarmac. Once she was convinced that it was safe, she gently called for her cubs to follow. One of the youngsters was somewhat reluctant to complete the journey though, and required a bit of encouragement from mom. "This was an extremely rare sighting, and you don’t often get to see a leopard mother relocate her cubs when they are still so young," said Delport, adding that in 50 years of visiting the iconic reserve he has never witnessed something like this before.

In the early stages of life, leopard cubs are unable to fend for themselves and are highly susceptible to attacks from rival predators or opportunistic hunters on the prowl for an easy meal. For the first 6-10 days of their lives, the cubs are blind and rely entirely on their mothers for survival. Pregnant females will scout out a secluded den in which to conceal the newborns for at least the first two months of their lives, at which point she may choose to move them if the hiding spot becomes compromised or food is scarce. 

It's likely that these cubs were venturing out for the first time, which may explain their displeased reaction to the unfamiliar tarmac. One commenter on YouTube joked: "Why does the second cub have such a low clearance? It must be in a sport mode." The prone posture is a sign of a cautious and uncertain cat; luckily mom was quick to move the cub to safety.

Although the youngsters are almost entirely defenceless at this tender age, in just a few months time they will have grown into formidable predators. Leopards are able to hunt for their own food when they are just nine-months-old, but they will typically stay with their mothers for a year and a half. Threats from other predators and environmental factors are plentiful for young cubs, so it helps to have a doting mom. These mini cats appear to be in good hands (or paws rather).


Header image: Chris Eason