Baboons Steal & Groom 2 Leopard Cubs

“What a lucky find this was, seeing something as rare as a baboon with a leopard cub in the Pilanesberg Private Game Reserve. That, while Lauren Pretorius spotted another baboon, in the Kruger, with another leopard cub, round about the same time of year!

44-year-old Paul Wood told about this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“This video was taken in 2020 just after 11:00 AM in the Pilanesberg National Park, on Moloto Rd.”

“We were slowly heading back towards our lodge after an early morning game drive, when we came upon a large troop of baboons. We were enjoying the spectacle, as we hadn’t really had any good sightings of baboon on our trip. The troop was moving down the road in the opposite direction from us and we gradually made our way past them. As we came around a bend in the road, we all saw what turned out to be the very last member of the troop, a young adult male baboon, and he was visibly clutching something small under his belly with one arm. At this point, the baboon was only 10 m or so in front of our vehicle.”

“Within seconds, and with all eyes on him, he juggled what he was carrying and we all gasped as it was clearly a tiny leopard cub. The initial reaction from myself, and the guide, was that the cub was surely already dead and the baboon had simply picked it up while foraging, or, perhaps, had even been involved in its death. However, after a few more seconds, it was obvious that the cub was very much alive!”

“At that point, the sighting took on a whole new aspect as we were confronted, in nature, with something that seemed somehow… unnatural. An adult baboon shouldn’t be carrying around a leopard cub! The cub belongs with its mother! I think we were all hoping that the baboon would lose interest in the cub and leave it behind so that there might be the smallest chance that it could be reunited with its mother. But, as we watched, it was clear that the baboon was very interested in the cub and was intent on taking it along with him. He would sit quietly with it, occasionally looking down to check on it, and even groomed the cub as we watched. He was quite gentle with it, if a little clumsy, but did not appear to want to harm it in any way.”

"The baboon was some way behind the rest of the troop. However, he was still keeping up with them, sitting a while with the cub, then picking it up with one arm and continuing down the road a little as the distance between him and the rest of the troop grew too big. Eventually, he followed the rest of the troop off-road and into the long grass, picking up pace as he re-joined the others. Not long after leaving the road the baboon disappeared over a small ridge, down an embankment, and moved quickly out of sight."