It is rightly said and I believe too – wild animals ( especially leopard ) make their appearance or create a natural history moment when you least expect it. This was one such day at Kabini during the monsoons. I personally believe that monsoons are the best time to visit forests simply for its soothing greenery and as a wildlife photographer one can make amazing images with lovely colors. However, the flip side of this is that wildlife viewing can be very low due to the thick monsoon vegetation.

And indeed, it was a dry morning safari drive for the first hour or more and then as a matter of luck a leopard was spotted relaxing on a bund on a popular location known as the President Road at Kabini. I was busy making portraits of this young male leopard; little did I expect that a storm was all set to break.

It was just about 8am and suddenly dark clouds were seen covering the sky, a storm was surely on its way. In the meantime the leopard decided to move and took cover inside the bushes. He had noticed that a large group of Spotted Deer (Chital) approaching in his direction. I looked at the deer. they were over 50 mts away, and completely unaware of the leopard’s presence.

Leopard Ambush Hunter

Photograph: Praveen Siddannavar

 

Excitement began, I anticipated some action, and I kept my eye towards the bushes and the deer. The leopard patiently waited, stalked and finally the storm broke. The leopard popped out in a flash, putting his special technique to work – Precision, Speed and Power – he attacked one of the deer, didn’t even give a chance for it to react. Typically, the leopard’s strategy is to strangle its prey to death by choking its windpipe. And this is exactly what we witnessed, holding the prey by throat. The alarm calls given by large group of deer are still echoing in my ears.

Initially the leopard tried dragging the deer utilizing the strength of his jaws and moving backwards, he realized it was taking longer than expected, as the deer was quite heavy. These cats avoid exposing their kill in the open for various reasons, like counter attack by other predators or scavengers hence will make all possible efforts to drag the prey into the bushes and later carry it high up on a tree.

Leopard Ambush Hunter

Photograph: Praveen Siddannavar

 

The leopard continued to drag the chital, taking breaks in intervals of a few seconds and it was interesting to observe the leopard taking cover under a small fallen branch of a tree.

To move quickly, the typical strategy adopted by a leopard is to drag his kill under his belly between the hind legs while holding it firmly with his jaws. This he proceeded to do as he quickly disappeared into the bushes.

The action was not over yet, probably the Rain Gods too held their excitement during this hunt and suddenly the clouds broke and it poured cats and dogs. I felt truly blessed to witness this fine and rare natural history, however one of my friends couldn’t control her emotions and tears were seen pouring from her eyes. This is the truth of raw nature; in order for one to live other has to die, that’s how life in our Forest Ecosystem continues…