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Dkay

Leopards Of Rajasthan!

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Leopards, out of all the 5 big cat species has the widest range of habitat and can survive from cold climates to arid dry regions. They adapt very well to various conditions, They are solitary animals, highly elusive, street smart secretive and highly adept at camouflage hence tracking and photographing them becomes very difficult.

 

Over a period of last 5 years, I with my like minded friends have been visiting the jungles around Jaipur to see if I can find a leopard. Initially, the success rate was very less. We knew that the leopard is there (you get to hear so many stories of villagers seeing leopards)but had no idea where to look. We used to get a fleeting glimpse of a Leopard from time to time.

 

Slowly as We spent more times in these jungles, We started to associate various sounds, sights and behavior of other animals and birds with the presence of the big cat. For eg we started to distinguish the alarm call of a peacock or a partridge with its roosting call. The general chirping of birds like partridges as against the typical sound when they see a predator also started making sense. So over a period of time the leopard sighting increased.

 

Leopards being very shy, Sighting them for a few seconds and then making it used to the human presence is altogether a different ball game. Unlike the Tiger, a leopard will usually run away on seeing humans. But slowly we started to understand their behavior also so that we could sight them for a longer time.

 

Today, having sincerely and diligently tracking leopards for a period of 5 years we think that we have learnt a lot about leopards of Rajasthan. But suddenly one day the Leopard will do something so uncharacteristic to what we know that we think that we know nothing about it. This is what makes tracking and watching the leopard so interesting to us.

 

Following are images of Leopards from 2012 onwards (didnt carry a camera before) that I have spotted. These photos are not of great quality as I do not stress on cameras and photos. I rather would see them with my naked and eye and study their behavior.

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This was one of the first proper photos of a leopard that we saw. It was late in the evening and were returning home. Suddenly a pair of eyes flashed in front of us and it was a leopard eating a kill. Gave me enough time to click a few decent pics

 

December, 2012

 

post-17135-0-27823600-1413105903_thumb.jpg

 

post-17135-0-09529500-1413105927_thumb.jpg

 

More pics in the coming posts!!!

 

 

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This place that we visit around Jaipur is an isolated piece of jungle which spreads in an area of around 25 sq kms. With the Leopard on top of the food chain this jungle also has striped hyenas, jackals, blue bulls, spotted deers, Sambhar deer, wild cats, rabbits and lots of other snakes and rodents. Amongst the bird varieties, this jungle is full of peacocks and partridges and lots of other domestic and migratory birds.

 

This jungle is surrounded by rapidly increasing human population on all its sides. Even though there is human population around this jungle yet there are a very few incidents of leopard and human conflict that has been reported (as against other urban jungles in India). The credit of this should go to the forest department. The forest department ensures water for all the animals in all seasons and they also ensure that unauthorized grazing by domestic cattle does not happen. This in turn provides a safe heaven for all the flaura & fauna in the jungle and hence the animals do not have to venture out into urban areas for their food and water needs.

 

No one has an exact count of how many leopards are there in this jungle but as per our estimate there should be around 8-10 in this area. There is one dominant male, 3 receptive females and the rest are sub adult cubs.

 

MARCH, 2013

 

Leopards here are usually nocturnal. Their movement usually starts as the sun sets. This day as we were passing by we saw the biggest male crossing the road and disappeared pretty fast. All I could manage was a few shots of him. Nevertheless it was a nice experience as till then watching Leopards here was still a very rare occurrence.

 

post-17135-0-90093400-1413188030_thumb.jpg

 

 

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APRIL 2013

 

April/May are the peak summer months in Rajasthan. Though the days are long but its very very hot. It is presumed that the sighting of a leopard gets better if you wait near a watering hole but we realised that this was not the case. A leopard can patiently wait for ages and will only come to drink water if he finds that there is no disturbance/threat. This usually happens when the sun sets. But we had made it a point to leave the jungle before dark. This was primarily for our own safety and also for not disturbing the routine of a nocturnal animal like a leopard. We also have a theory that as the sun sets the leopard gets more bolder and more confident, hence the threat from the animal at dark gets bigger. So we usually leave the jungle before it gets dark.

 

April 2013, sighting was ok, but clicking photograph wise was not that great as most of the sightings happened late in the evening, hence not many photographs

 

post-17135-0-66745900-1413273907_thumb.jpg

 

 

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This jungle has mostly Juliflora trees that is not native to the region. Juliflora was introduced here to provide greenery but in the process has destroyed most of the trees native to the area. Its a very hardened species that can sustain high heat and with just a little bit of rain can go green again. This jungle becomes absolutely dry (as seen in above pics) during the summers and after monsoons becomes totally green with lot of undergrowth. This undergrowth provides the perfect camouflage for the leopard.

 

We avoid going in the jungle during the rainy season from June-September because of this undergrowth and also because of variety of insects and poisonous snakes.

 

21 OCT 2013

 

During our visit in October we saw a leopard that crossed the road barely 10 mtrs in front of us and hid in the undergrowth. It took us a long time to locate it due to its camouflage and also due to the leopards ability to lay absolutely still.

post-17135-0-23938500-1413275150_thumb.jpg

 

We waited for the leopard to make a move and it waited for us to leave the scene. After some time we decided it was a futile wait so we moved ahead and took a U turn only to return back to the scene. Most probably on seeing us disappear the leopard had moved and was now in the open giving us enough time to click a pic before going back into hiding again.

post-17135-0-80554100-1413275179_thumb.jpg

 

Lesson Learnt : If you want to increase the chance of seeing a leopard, best is to move away from the scene only to return back after some time. The chances are that the leopard will come out of the hiding. This theory of ours has worked on most of the occasions but sometimes it has not and the leopard we were stalking has disappeared all together

 

 

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@@Dkay

 

It sounds like you have been having a lot of fun trying to track down your local Leopards.

 

Think you are been both sensible and considerate in leaving the Leopards to their own domain after sun down.

 

In my visits to India I have only seen 2 Leopards. As you say they are a late evening/night time predator and superbly camouflaged for the purpose.

 

I saw one on the entrance road to Zone 4 + 5 in Ranthambhore. Late in the day it was climbing the hill,setting off on its evening hunt. It was a spectacular sighting,but happened so quickly that I got no photos.

 

My 2nd leopard sighting was in Tadoba and reminds me a little of your Oct 13 sighting. The leopard was sitting in the thick bamboo forest close to the Moharli entry gate in the early afternoon.. Only about 10 feet into the Bamboo, but was almost impossible to see,it was the young experienced eyes of my driver and guide who somehow saw him.

 

I eventually got my eyes tuned in and was able able to see the Leopard. We watched the Leopard for approx 20 mins,during which time no movement occurred. Then the guide suggested your idea,we moved away and came back approx 5 mins later,but the Leopard had vanished...........

 

Hopefully more luck with Leopards during my Nov/Dec visit to Ranthambhore,Panna, Kanha and Cotigao.

 

Happy hunting..........................

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There is so much to learn and so much to observe with the wildlife. All theories sometime or the other is negated when it comes to wild animals. This unpredictability of nature for me makes me love nature in general. Thanks @@Johnmac (i still dont know how to tag) for reading and best wishes for your Indian sojourn.

 

24th OCT, 2013

 

While we were tracking leopards we saw an unusual sight (first time for us) of lots of peacocks and peahens all gathered at one place, all looking at one direction with necks stretched and giving out calls. We saw in the direction where they were looking and definitely there was a leopard that was sitting peacefully behind some rocks. The peacocks used to go as close as possible to the leopard in a curious manner and used to run behind again. This continued for a good 30 minutes and after that the peacocks disappeared but the leopard stayed put.

 

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Lesson learnt : on seeing a predator, peacocks tend to gather around and give alarm calls (different than their normal call). Peacocks are also inquisitive and will tend to get as close to the predator, here the leopard as possible. This theory of ours has given us a leopard sighting many times.

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@@Dkay

This is fascinating reading, seeing how you build up you knowledge of the leopard's behaviour. I am also enjoying the photos illustrating this

 

(to tag - when you have started a reply, click on the @mention in the left column for the person you are respoding to - the software will put it into you post)

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@@TonyQ thank you for help with tagging!!

 

Thank you for reading and enjoying my experiences and my learning curve with the leopards. I know the photographs are very close to being horrible but hopefully I shall improve as we move ahead.

 

Whenever we hear or read about leopards, one thing that differentiates them from the other big cats is their ability to climb trees and also drag their kill up the trees. But in my one year of tracking and watching leopards in this jungle I had never see a leopard up a tree so far. I dont know the reason for this. Maybe its the thorns in the Juliflora trees that the leopards dont like to climb them or maybe its just that they are on top of the food chain here so they dont feel threatened enough to go up a tree for safety.

 

27th OCT, 2014

 

While tracking leopards like usual we could hear some blue bull making alarm calls. That was a sure sign that a predator was there. But in the thick undergrowth it was next to impossible to sight it. Still we slowly took a round in the hope of catching a sight while the leopard was on move. Suddenly one of our friends with us squeesed the hands of the driver indicating him to stop. Actually we have made it a point not to shout in excitement nor to talk as and when we spot a leopard. A leopard is highly shy and on slightest of noise will usually run away. So we use hand signals on sighting a leopard.

 

There was this leopard sitting quietly on a tree. This was my first sighting of a leopard up a tree. This leopard seemed to be very timid as it looked like a sub adult, not very sure of what is to be done. It just kept on looking at us.

post-17135-0-25427300-1413530307_thumb.jpg

 

The green forest (the rains had just finished in September) and the thick undergrowth

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My first time watching a leopard up a tree

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post-17135-0-42567300-1413530510_thumb.jpg

 

 

 

 

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November' 2013 was one the best months for sighting for us. We realized that there were two sub adult females, most probably from the same litter, around, just separated from their mother and were desperately trying to carve out a territory of their own. Till then their territory, though separate from each other, yet, was quite limited. We were pretty certain to find at least one of them at their specific spots, so the chances of sightings went up pretty high. The only problem with November was that the day were pretty small and the sun used to set pretty early making it difficult for photography.

 

12th NOV, 2013

 

We saw one of the sub adult females at very close quarters. On matching the spots on the face of the leopard with the spots of the leopard posted in the previous post (on the tree) we realised that these were two different leopards. Both the leopards lacked confidence and looked nervous plus obviously their size (especially the face) kind of proved that they were still sub adults. How ultimately we theorized that they were most probably siblings would be in the next post.

 

I do not like to stay long with nervous looking wild animals (even with pets). Nervousness makes these animals very unpredictable, plus we were very close to the leopard so we just took a few pics for the record and left.

 

post-17135-0-44137700-1413616658_thumb.jpg

 

post-17135-0-15908900-1413616692_thumb.jpg

 

 

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@@Dkay thanks so much for posting this, I'm really enjoying your record of local leopard sightings.

 

Do many people go into this small area of forest to enjoy the wildlife or do you mostly have the park all to yourselves?

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@@Treepol I was hoping that no one would ask this question as the answer is a bit complicated. This forest land falls under the forest department and is not a notified jungle (though we are trying to get it notified) Trespassing on forest land as per law is not allowed but we take permissions from the ranger incharge and then only go inside. We are a group of about 8-10 animal lovers who take turns to go mainly in the evenings. In the mornings there are a few birding enthusiasts who go to watch and click the various migratory birds that visit this jungle. So at a given time there is a maximum of 5-7 people inside the jungle. The problem here is not us, the problem here is the unauthorised people like woodcutters, drug addicts and other anti social elements who use the jungle as safe heavens for their nefarious activities. But these things (except de forestation) is on the decline since wildlife enthusiasts have started visiting these jungles.

 

13th NOV, 2013

 

Leopards are usually solitary animals and here also they are no different. They usually tend to avoid each other untill and unless there is a strong case to be together. So far we had never seen two leopards together, but today was different. We saw 3 of them in the same area. Most probably they had a reason to be together and the reason (most probably) was food. Till today we thought that the leopards made only a "coughing kind of" noise to mark their presence but today we realised that leopards also make a deep low, highly in audible, grunting sounds to communicate with each other too.

 

These 3 leopards most probably were a family with the mother and her two sub adult cubs. I could not get all of them in one frame as they were not together but in the same area.

 

Most probably the mother. Seeing her swollen mammary glands she seemed pregnant with another litter

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One of the two sub adult cubs.

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@@Dkay thanks for the information.

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15th Nov, 2013

 

On our regular evening round in the jungle, everything seemed quiet and there was no alarm call of any bird or any other animal. There was a group of blue bull grazing peacefully so we thought there would be no leopard around so decided to move ahead. But to our surprise the place where we were watching the blue bulls graze, not even 10 feet away from there there was this sub adult leopard hiding in the undergrowth. The leopard was so well camouflaged that it was only by chance that we managed to spot it. If we would have not stopped at that exact place it would have been next to impossible for us to spot the hiding leopard

 

Here is how the leopard looked thru the undergrowth.

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We waited for the leopard to move but we realised that it was stalking the blue bulls and because we had come there he was waiting for the commotion to die down. After about a 15 minute wait the leopard decided to move. By then the blue bulls had moved on and were outside his sight. So the leopard decided to jump on a tree trunk and had a quick glance at the blue bulls, had a look at us and again disappeared in the undergrowth. Within those seconds I managed to get one of the best pics of a leopard that I have clicked so far.

 

Looking for the blue bulls

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Quick glance at us before disappearing in the undergrowth

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Now that we had realised that there are 2 sub adult females in the vicinity we decided to study their spots for identification purpose. Here is an enlarged pic of both showing the difference in their spots

post-17135-0-96372800-1413808449_thumb.jpg

 

QUESTION FOR ALL OF YOU : The leopards here seem to have blue eyes. Do all the leopards have blue eyes??

 

Regards

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Hi @@Dkay

 

Loving the images and the story you are telling.

 

Really whetting my appetite for when I will be in Rajasthan in 4 weeks time......!!!!!

 

Regarding Leopards with blue eyes,to the best of my knowledge the vast majority have amber/yellow eyes which match the colour of the standard Leopard coat.

 

I only became aware of blue eyed Leopards after visiting a sanctuary in Cotigoa,Goa.

 

Seeing a young leopard with the same coloured eyes that can be seen in your photos. They really are the most striking eyes.

 

A quick web search showed that Blue eyed leopards are also to be found in Bera.

 

http://indiasendangered.com/unusual-sighting-blue-eyed-leopards-seen-in-jungles-of-india/

 

They are also found in Africa.

 

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/2012/entries/156250/view/

 

Lots about genetics in Leopards on this link.

 

http://messybeast.com/genetics/mutant-leopards.html

 

Hope you have more episodes of your Rajasthan leopard hunts to keep us entertained.......

 

Cheers

Edited by Johnmac
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post-47989-0-52770100-1413827715_thumb.jpg

 

Young blue eyed Leopard in wildlife sanctuary at entrance to Cotigoa National park Goa. March 2014.

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Loving this thread, @@Dkay, please do keep it up! How easy is it for tourists to get permission to visit this area? How far from Jaipur? I am just constantly amazed at what great survivors leopards are - give them a chance and they will recover every time.

 

I saw at least 1, and possibly 2 blue eyed leopards in Bera, so this trait seems to be quite widespread at least among the Rajasthani leopard population.

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I am also loving this thread - thank you for sharing. It is fascinating to see all you have learned about the leopards, and I think you should not say your photos are mostly horrible, many are good. Now that I think about it, if you had asked me before seeing this thread what color a leopard's eye typically are, I'm not sure what I would have said! I think they are my favorite of the big cats that I've seen, so that is something I should know. These with the blue eyes are especially beautiful.

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Posted (edited)

Hi @@Dkay

 

A quick web search showed that Blue eyed leopards are also to be found in Bera.

 

http://indiasendangered.com/unusual-sighting-blue-eyed-leopards-seen-in-jungles-of-india/

 

Lots about genetics in Leopards on this link.

 

http://messybeast.com/genetics/mutant-leopards.html

 

Hope you have more episodes of your Rajasthan leopard hunts to keep us entertained.......

 

Cheers

Hi John, thank you for the links. Will definitely go through them and I am sure it will only help me in increasing my knowledge about leopards. Best wishes for your India Trip!!

 

BTW, I have not even finished Nov 2013 so still a long time to go to reach the current date, hence lots more stories to come :)

 

Loving this thread, @@Dkay, please do keep it up! How easy is it for tourists to get permission to visit this area? How far from Jaipur? I am just constantly amazed at what great survivors leopards are - give them a chance and they will recover every time.

 

I saw at least 1, and possibly 2 blue eyed leopards in Bera, so this trait seems to be quite widespread at least among the Rajasthani leopard population.

Yes indeed, the leopard is a great survivor and can adapt very well according to the situation, hence they still in larger numbers than the other big cats of the world.

 

Now that the city has spread rapidly, this jungle is with in the city limits now. You would be amazed to know that there were tigers here till not very long ago The last one was shot in 1950 and her two cubs were then shifted to the zoo. I doubt if the forest department will encourage any tourism related activities here. Though there is a proposal to have this jungle notified, allot bigger budgets and also start some kind of safari's in these jungles, but I have no idea if they will ever start.

 

I am also loving this thread - thank you for sharing. It is fascinating to see all you have learned about the leopards, and I think you should not say your photos are mostly horrible, many are good. Now that I think about it, if you had asked me before seeing this thread what color a leopard's eye typically are, I'm not sure what I would have said! I think they are my favorite of the big cats that I've seen, so that is something I should know. These with the blue eyes are especially beautiful.

Thank you for reading. Leopards also amaze me. Yes, these blue eyed leopards are beautifull indeed

Edited by Dkay
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16th NOV, 2013

 

Today we learnt a very important lesson in Leopard behavior that helped us in sightings leopards for a longer duration.

 

On our drives we again saw one of the sub adult females on the track and as usual the first reaction of the leopard, on seeing us, was to hide in the thick undergrowth. Once in the undergrowth its very difficult to spot it. So we left her there and moved ahead. But not very far from there we decided to take a U turn and return back and the leopard was back on the track moving away from us.

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We maintained a safe distance from her and followed her. She seemed on a mission, perhaps hoping to make a kill.

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Time to time she used to face us and sit down and then start to walk again. Whenever she stopped we stopped too. It seemed that now she realised that we were of no threat and got accustomed to our presence

post-17135-0-17702600-1413881616_thumb.jpg

 

She could have been on a hunt as there were many peacocks around. But by then the peacocks were aware of her presence and were repeatedly making alarm calls.

post-17135-0-21973500-1413881640_thumb.jpg

 

But she didn't look interested in the peacocks either, she kept looking behind

post-17135-0-37884600-1413881653_thumb.jpg

 

She started to walk again and suddenly out of no where another leopard came out of the undergrowth between her and us. Later we had realised that this territory belonged to this leopard and the leopard we saw first was the intruding party

post-17135-0-07715000-1413881669_thumb.jpg

 

So all this while we believe she was aware of the presence of another leopard in her territory, which post probably was her sibling. So her purposeful walk was not for a kill but to confront the other leopards

post-17135-0-22092300-1413881684_thumb.jpg

 

What followed for the next 1 minute or so was lot of growling with vocal show of strength and show of body strength without touching each other

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Finally the intruder went on her back in a surrender like posture

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And decided to move out of her siblings territory while her sister watched on

post-17135-0-49936400-1413881727_thumb.jpg

 

But to our surprise she looked back after reaching a safe distance and made her self comfortable again

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post-17135-0-87218300-1413881755_thumb.jpg

 

This time the sister seemed to have had enough and decided to charge her. It happened so quickly that I could not catch that on camera. Finally victorious she decided to mark her territory.

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post-17135-0-06596900-1413881783_thumb.jpg

 

LESSON LEARNT :

1. If you realise that there is a leopard hidden in the undergrowth, the best way to increase your chance of seeing it is to move away from there only to return back after after some time. there are high chances that the leopard will come out. Like all wildlife, but especially with leopards the critical distance is very high, so follow them from a lot of distance. If the leopard stops, u make sure to stop as well.

 

2. Leopards will not tolerate anyone in their territory. Even siblings do not tolerate each other in their territory. But this territory dispute is usually solved with out any blood shed

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22ND NOV, 2013

 

Spending more and more time in the jungle and watching and studying leopard behavior, by now we were almost certain to catch a glimpse of the leopard. Also that these sub adults did not have a big territory and the undergrowth was getting lesser and lesser helped us.

 

By now we also realised that these sub adults were honing their hunting skills. So in the evenings, wherever there were herd of deers and blue bulls the two sub adults were bound to be there. But in all these years we have seen the leopards stalking prey but have never seen a kill happening in front of us

 

Today was no different. We saw one of the sub adults hiding behind some stones and looking intently at a herd of deers. The leopard stayed there for quite a while but the kill never happened and she finally settled down to relax.

 

Looking intently at the herd of deers

post-17135-0-24920600-1413965312_thumb.jpg

 

Perhaps waiting to get darker to attempt a kill

post-17135-0-22804800-1413965341_thumb.jpg

 

Relaxing

post-17135-0-53081800-1413965385_thumb.jpg

 

Big festival for us, so here is wishing every one a Happy Diwali.

 

Regards

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Fantastic stuff😀

Wish you a very happy Diwali as well.

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Totally Agree.

 

Happy Diwali and enjoy the celebrations.

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I'm really enjoying your leopard learning curve adventures, thank you for sharing. And happy Diwali!

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@AKR1@Johnmac@michael-ibk thank you guys!!

 

23rd NOV, 2014

 

Here leopards are the premier predators but still are very shy. Actually I personally do not like to use the word shy with leopards because I feel they are not, they are just too smart, intelligent and they analysis risk well and love to stay away from any perceived risk. So in this jungle, humans being the biggest risk/threat to the leopard, the leopards, for their own safety, love to stay away humans.

 

Leopards I feel can also adapt very fast to any situation. Quick thinking and the instant reaction to hide on sensing any risk has helped them to survive so well. We have realized that letting a leopard get used to your presence takes a lot of time and is a game of patience, a game that leopard will usually win.

 

Today again we spotted a leopard who immediately hid himself on seeing us. Luckily, she wasnt very far from us, infact she was so close that I couldnt get a clear image of her in my zoom lens

post-17135-0-64178800-1414306991_thumb.jpg

 

We tried our theory of leaving her and moving in the direction of the closest water hole. And we were lucky that she soon came there and surprisingly came and sat in the open.

post-17135-0-49945100-1414307014_thumb.jpg

post-17135-0-20668900-1414307038_thumb.jpg

 

She sat there for a while, it seemed she had got accustomed to us but suddenly got up alarmed only to hide behind a tree guard. We had not moved so we didnt know what had happened. But she had, as she had heard some noise from a distance and it was another vehicle that was coming so her first reaction was to hide.

post-17135-0-15973600-1414307070_thumb.jpg

 

 

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