Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Kill in Making

Leopard Safari at Kanha National Park 

It was one of those days when you have a tough time deciphering calls. We were on a tiger safari in the Sarhi Zone whence we reached the Saunf Meadow. We had just crossed over the Siliyari Waterbody and were moving further. At the Saunf meadow we encountered frantic calls of the langur.   

The monkey was up on the tree facing towards the road to Sarhi. The calls continued for a very long time aided by other langurs now and them. But we could see and hear nothing...the alarm was strong and continuous.  We waited in expectation for a long time looked all over near and far but no big cat was in sight.

Normally frantic calls means a moving cat which also means a sure shot sighting. Well almost! The guide had lost all hope and urged us to proceed in order to maintain timings.

"We will return via this road while turning back", I said to the guide. "Worth investigating", he affirmed. So we continued through the magic landscape of  Sarhi Zone inundated by the mesmerizing Sulkum River. 

After and hour or so on the return we slowed down and searched. The calls had ceased, but anyway we were proceeding slowly since the area Saunf Meadow is often visited by the tigers. Two safari jeeps passed us nodding there head in disappointment which meant nothing exciting behind.     

It was going to be a dull day I thought as we continued.

Well not. "Stop," shouted the guide.

Move back he instructed the driver much to the amazement of my foreign guests staying at Courtyard House Kanha. For there sprawled on the rock was a full grown leopard in bright sunlight looking straight at us. WoW!

I looked back to see if the jeeps were still near us but they had sped away on their way. The leopard...shy predator? No way he sat on the rock sprawled like a cool cat. After some time he moved towards the ground and stretched.   

He then sat down majestically and looked at us menacingly disturbed perhaps by our presence at such close quarters. Then much to our surprise he began to move in the grass barely visible at times. It was amazing how the big cat could perfectly camouflage and easily loose itself  amidst the short crop grass. 
Leopard in Grass - Credit Teerath Singh

The game of hide and seek continued as the leopard moved towards a pair of spotted deer. Totally unaware of death at close quarter they continued to graze merrily on the edge of the jungle road. Another jeep had joined us with loads of  noisy holiday makers.

We are going to witness a rare hunt, a moment of our lifetime. Feeling highly excited we were barely able to contain our tongues. The brilliance of acrobatic grace of the creature had us totally mesmerized. Cameras clicking was all that made the sound. 

The graceful cat would crouch and then move forward excruciatingly slow. I could see the path it chose all the time kept it in hiding. What a drama I whispered to the guests.  

The hunt was perfectly on the leopard had crouched to about ten feet from the unaware deer.  And then! Woof!

From the other side of the road a noisy Bolera jeep belonging to the forest department came towards us approached the deer and manage to scare them away. The game was over. The abject disregard for what was happening was nothing new. With due respect for the conservation efforts many times the forest staff is disregardful and rude towards the tourists and totally unmindful of their activities.       

The vehicle sped past at good speed disturbing the hunt and a hungry leopard who vanished from the sight.  

Many times I think mannerism is important and the chauvinistic attitude towards tourism becomes evident in the tiger reserves. Proper behavioral code is as important for the tourists as it is for the departmental staff. I have noticed this lacuna on many occasions regarding the latter.  
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