The Battle at GonalabbaPhotographer : Avijja Fonseka (Game ranger, Leopard Trails)
I arrived from Meda para onto the main road and moved into position to observe a malithan tree in the distance where we had sighted a leopard on the previous day. On closer inspection we noticed that the tree was empty and there was no sign of the leopard anywhere. I decided to stake out the area as on the previous two occasions this particular leopard had been in the same vicinity with the intention of predating a buffalo calf. It seemed that this leopard had taken a liking to buffalo flesh.
Fifteen minutes had passed and was beginning to get impatient when suddenly I caught some movement in the corner of my eye. I swiftly turned all my attention to the right had side and there he was, head down, body streamlined and hungry. I watched as the leopard edged closer to the herd of buffalo with caution and prowess. He was extremely patient in this endeavor as on the previous day his impatience cost him the hunt and a square meal.
Twenty minutes had passed since I first sighted this male and he was now within ear shot of the herd of buffalo. The skill with which he stalked was apparent as not a single creature on the vast gonalabba plain had seen of even heard him and were completely oblivious to his presence.
As the sun was rising higher into the sky the entire scene became a silhouette in its light. Still keeping my eyes locked onto the leopard, I observed a female buffalo and her calf separate from the main herd, this immediately caught the attention of the leopard and he went prone instantly. Then with a snipers focus and his ears held low he leapt into the open running straight towards the buffalo calf.
All was silent in anticipation of what was to happen next when from the left hand side three of the bigger buffalo came charging towards the stalking leopard in an attempt to thwart his attack. On seeing the trio charge towards him the leopard immediately changed his trajectory and set a path towards the malithan tree to avoid the massive horns and mass of the buffalo. In its panic the leopard leaped over a water hole and misjudged it completely landing straight into the water with a large splash. This however did not slow him down one bit as he darted around the buffalo and into the malithan tree where he spent the rest of the day.
Another day, another failed hunt but this would not stop this same leopard from returning the next day to continue its ongoing battle with the buffalo which would only end when the leopard had claimed its prize or when the buffalo drew blood.