New life, whether human or animal, has a way of bringing everything into focus. The sight triggers a sense of awe and an overwhelming desire to care for both mother and newborn. To experience all of this with a leopard is particularly special as leopards are reclusive creatures, not inclined to interact with any species, even their own. As such, watching a leopard tenderly care for its newborn is a sight to behold. One cannot help but want to observe, first hand, the bond that exists between a leopard and her cub, a bond that exceeds all others and is the basis for the continued existence of the species.

Furthermore, building a relationship between a human and a leopard is hard-won, taking a concerted effort, time and infinite patience. It takes months to get an understanding of the territory and habits of a leopard and years to fully habituate it. Once a leopard has developed a certain level of trust, there is a definite sense of privilege in being allowed, by the leopard, access into its daily life. Thandi, who has many years of experience with guides in the area, Tristan in particular, has grown up with consistent human presence. Getting to watch Thandi and her new little cub is an unforgettable reward for building that relationship throughout the years. It is no wonder then that the guides have such strong emotions toward the little one; their excitement is palpable.

Leopard cubs, like all baby animals, are undeniably cute, but the cuteness factor isn’t what makes Thandi’s cub remarkable: It’s that WE are able to document another generation of Sabi Sand leopards from birth to adulthood. It’s that WE get to experience motherhood, yet again, with our beloved Thandi. It’s that WE get to be present during the beginning stages of a new life when it is its most vulnerable and therefore, most precious.

Of course, it is also remarkable that this special experience can be shared with so many people. Together we can watch Thandi care for her cub as it explores the world on Friday, Dec 14, 10pm ET on Nat Geo WILD.