Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Leopard in India

Before I saw tigers in the wild, I thought leopards were the most beautiful animals I'd ever seen in the wild.  I knew Indian leopards were supposed to be more elusive and harder to see than African leopards....but I tend to have good luck with cat sightings.  I have never been on a trip in Africa without seeing at least one leopard - so I really hoped I could see at least one leopard in India as well.  I did see one, fleetingly, twice (same cat) in Sasan Gir National Park.  The poor cat was trying to get a drink but was very shy so every time a car pulled up he ran off - I got only glimpses, no photos, and from a distance so I didn't count it as much of a sighting.

Fortunately, I had a fantastic leopard sighting in Kanha National Park.  We were on an evening drive moving through the park from Mukki to the other gate, and not far past the ranger post we encountered this male leopard right in the road.  He laid down for awhile, then did some territory marking, and then walked down the road a ways, with us backing up to give him space.  He walked within 4 feet of me.  He had a slight limp and some scratches on his face indicating perhaps a recent scuffle with another cat.  My guide estimated he was 4 years old.

He was stunningly gorgeous, as you can see for yourself, and I was the only car there and had about 15 minutes with him.  It was one of the coolest sightings of the trip - and apparently very rare.  My guide, Rajan, told all his guide friends about it and wanted me to show them all the photos as proof.  They said "This does not happen!"  Everyone swore it was one of the luckiest leopard sightings due to how hard it is to see leopards and how fleeting the sightings usually are.  This cat was calm and unhurried and made no effort to get away from me.  Good kitty karma once again.


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