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Friday, March 31, 2017

Leopard Surprise

Pete & Kay Sutton UK 
Guests Courtyard House
Kanha National Park India 


It was in the previous evening round that we heard clamorous alarm cries at the cross road that leads to Sarhi Zone on left and Kanha Zone to the right. We had waited for a long time but nothing materialised. From the frequency of cries we could surmise that the sambar and chital deer had spotted a leopard in the thick canopy.  

Nothing emerged after waiting a long time. Disappointed we left so as to exit the park in time. Predators as shaped by nature are extremely unpredictable and can rarely be spotted at the same place twice. Well there are exceptions. 

Next day morning we were at Kisli Zone and were on mission to find Munna the ageing but dominant male tiger. Tracking tigers is an ultimate test of patience, split second decision and experience that one gets with due time and sincere application.

We were at Nainsingh Nala a wooden bridge that runs over a dried stream but does sustain water a few feet away in the neighbouring canopy. This canopy has become a vital point in our search for tigers and with great success. Two males have been spotted after a long long wait.     

So far there was no sign of Munna, and as usual we decided to score the neighbouring area. 

"Let us go to the crossroad where we had heard alarm cries last evening!" I instructed. This was just a surmise that something could wait so long.  Never give up easily and utilise all the time allotted for each and every search that you can make during the tiger safari. Jeeps arrived and departed and we waited. Our surmise was strengthened by the fact that a leopard had been sighted on this morning  round here.  

As the clamour of the jeeps ended a stony silence pervaded. The jungle sounds are incredible and challenge your hearing apparatus like no other situation can. In the mysterious wilderness of the Indian jungles sound waves from distance skim weakly over surface, and throw a challenge to your hearing apparatus. Long wait for big cats can be tiring and boring at times. I regaled my guests with the distant sounds that emanated from the jungle around us. "That's a barking deer! Probably sighted a tiger and going all bonkers!" 

Well in immediate surrounding it was all pin drop. If you as much make a rustle sound shifting in the vehicle you can lose valuable audible clues. But we sat absolutely still. It was a long wait but we did it.      

Then the cacophony erupted, a sambar called frantically, and the sound resounded amongst the still tall stands that were the object of our gaze.  As the calls continued we began to gaze between the stands, and it was rewarding. Our guide spotted what appeared to be a mongoose. "Pl hand me the binoculars." "Its a leopard!' The magic words all naturalists like to hear.  I peered hard and spotted the second cub emerging from the bush and heading into another.         

Excited but in full control we decided to park at a distance from where we thought the big cats will emerge. The strategy paid off. Thinking the jeep had left the leopard family continued to approach the jungle road. "Keep an eye behind," I told the guests. They did, and within a short span of time they called in unison "leopard!"  

Images by Pete & Kay Sutton 

Leopard Mother

Pensive Look 

Leopard Cub looking at us  

Panther Cub 

Cub Scurring Past like a Mongoose

First to emerge was the mother. She came out, inspected the surroundings, and made sure that we were at a safe distance. She then signalled her cubs to continue following her. The first cub to arrive was probably male judging from its size. It stopped to gaze at the strange sight of the green monster.

This wild animal's threat perception is acute and ends up saving its lives amidst the tortured terrain of the dense jungles habituated by tigers. After a good look at us it began to crawl like a mongoose in order to enter the bush across the road.   

The second cub visibly smaller took no chances. It crossed over from a distance and scurried through. Cameras clicked. The wait was over. We had been rewarded with a magnificent experience that would take eternity to replicate.      

"Whew! Lets move on." And we did for another escapade in the wilds of Kanha National Park in India.   
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