Spotting the spotted
Widely distributed on the Indian subcontinent, the leopard or Panthera pardus is categorized as vulnerable in the IUCN list. Come join us as the author recounts his chance encounter with this spotted feline.
It was a trip planned all of a sudden, just in a couple of hours before departure. I paid a visit to Nagzira wildlife sanctuary with few of my friends from Pune. We were lucky to get permits on the spot as there was no rush due to dry sightings. But this visit turned out to be an unforgettable and astonishing experience for all of us.
It all started when our bus arrived 4 hours late in Nagpur, which delayed our first safari by 2 hours! By the time we reached, it was evening and the sun had almost gone down. We were standing at the gates, waiting for our gypsy to arrive. We were about to climb in the vehicle and take a seat when we heard the shouting of locals and guides “Dada Leopard Leopard ….. Leopard!”
We just couldn’t believe with our eyes! A young leopard was approaching head-on towards us, right from the safari trail! The whole incident took place right in front of the main gate of Nagzira wildlife sanctuary i.e. at Pitezari gate itself. We hadn’t even started our safari and were lucky enough to see the leopard coming towards the gate. We managed to take some photos on foot before we started our safari!
The people who didn’t get the permits that day were very fortunate to witness this sighting without taking a safari. A huge crowd had gathered on the gate and eventually, the leopard sat on trail for few minutes and went inside the bushes.
On our second safari, we changed a strategy. All safari cars were lined up along the main gate to see the leopard as the news about this latest sighting had spread all over. We decided to visit a remote area in the sanctuary where the sighting had been absolutely dry and hence no one visited this area. And this decision turned out to be a jackpot! We came across a waterhole and got to see a huge male leopard sitting there. We were the only ones fortunate enough to witness this sighting. Thanks to our guide for his skill, knowledge and hawkeye sighting of the spotted feline. Yes! This time a close encounter for photography was possible.
Thinking back, I can surmise that rushing all the cars simultaneously through the gate might not be favorable to the chances of a sighting. Rather, a different strategy, an out-of-the-box thought process and willingness to take a risk to venture in an area known to be dry for sighting might suddenly up the chances for an encounter with the spotted kind.
Read also: Revisiting the moments in the wild
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