A dream sighting………….
Written by : Haresh De Soysa
Pictures by : Haresh De Soysa and Indika Nettigama
On the 24th of May 2014, the Leopard Trails team was witness to a spectacular sighting of leopard behavior. At approx. 7.00am, we approached a waterhole well known at present for its animal activity. Our tracker immediately sighted a spotted deer carcass, stashed on the low branches of a Mallithan Tree (Salvadora Persica), in close proximity to our vehicle. The carcass had clearly been devoured overnight but a substantial amount remained uneaten.
Our excitement was then heightened when a vehicle next to us, brought to our attention the presence of a young (adolescent) leopard stretched out within a large tree on the other side of the water source. While we focused our camera lenses to capture an image, it soon became apparent that a 2nd leopard was also present, higher up on the tree. Our guides identified the pair as a previously sighted mother and single male cub.
As daylight began to ascend upon the dry zone jungle, the young male cub appeared restless. He criss-crossed the large branches, appearing to be edgy and impatient. We steadied our cameras in anticipation, and sure enough, he leaped off the tree into open terrain directly in front of us.
The elegant mother leopard gracefully descended from the tree to join her playful cub. By this time, he was curiously exploring his surroundings in clear view of our vehicle. At one point, he spotted a mongoose happily trotting along at the edge of the waterhole. The cub’s natural instincts kicked in; an unsuccessful stalk and pounce followed, much to our delight. It was fantastic to watch this cub learning the art of hunting; the jungle was his classroom while he was still under the watchful eye of his mother.
The time was now approaching 8.30am, the golden light of the sun lit up the cats on this clear morning. Our cameras went into over-drive! The comical youngster then shifted his attention to his mother. His mischievous playfulness earned him a few growls, yet he was undeterred. He pounced onto her from several directions, earning her wrath. It was incredible to observe how similar this lively behavior was to the skills this cub would one day need to master, in order to survive this harsh and competitive environment.
The mother soon retreated into the thicket to avoid the heat of the day; the cub following soon afterwards. We were stunned to watch them cross the road a few feet away from us. Thus ends a magnificent morning of leopard watching.