The Boni and the Leopard Cub

The Boni tribe are a forest-dwelling hunter-gatherer tribe who traditionally hunt with bows and arrows, trapping animals and eating edible roots and berries

The Boni tribe are a forest-dwelling hunter-gatherer tribe who traditionally hunt with bows and arrows, trapping animals and eating edible roots and berries. Excluding themselves from the western world the Boni people have depended entirely on nature for food and medicine, traditionally living in huts made from twigs, grass and animal skin.

The Trusts Amu rangers, who are a mix of local tribes, have been working alongside these knowledgeable and highly skilled bushmen since the inception of Project Amu, building a solid foundation in which traditional local knowledge can be shared for technical skills and modern support.

Last month our Amu rangers had received a message from three of the local Boni men saying that they had found a lone baby leopard. The cub was found wandering through a strip of thick forest in an area called Maranga, apparently abandoned by its mother. Naturally in tune with their environment the Boni men, who live within the area, were familiar with a female leopard that had recently given birth to three cubs; they knew immediately that the lost cub must belong to this female and made the decision to pick him up and call the Amu rangers.

Our rangers soon arrived at the scene. Despite being weak and frightened the cub was bearing its sharp teeth and growling menacingly at the rangers as they tried to secure him. The collective decision was made to build a safe den in the thicket for the lost cub within the mothers territory which the Boni men were familiar with, in the hope that she would reappear and hear her cubs cries.

Not wanting to deter the mother from returning to the area, the rangers and the Boni retreated from her territory trusting that the cub would be safe until it was reunited with its lost family. Two days later the Boni people enthusiastically reported to the Amu rangers that they had seen the female leopard and that she now had three cubs with her. How the young leopard cub had become separated from his family will remain a mystery, yet for now the family are together and safe and roaming the wild forests of Amu.

Female leopards can give birth at any time of the year with a gestation period of around 90 to 105 days. A leopard litter typically consists of two to three cubs, which can open their eyes and walk within two weeks. After around two to three months young leopards begin to accompany their mother on hunting trips, where they start to learn skills through playing, pouncing, hiding, stalking, and sneaking up on each other. After around 18 months, juvenile leopards leave their mothers to find their own territory, living a solitary life.

It was thought that the great adaptability of leopards has protected them from their changing environment despite the encroachment of human-settlement, however many scientists and conservation organisations agree that leopards may indeed be a lot more vulnerable to extinction than believed.

The care the Boni people showed to this leopard cub and the act of reporting the cub to the Amu rangers demonstrates how their attitudes to their wildlife are changing. They understand that their wildlife needs their protection and that their traditional way of life must adapt in order to provide a safe habitat in which humans and animals can live in harmony together.

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