It is always a pleasure watching any animal with cubs, and when the subject is Leopard it goes right on top. For past few days’ news amongst the wild life photographers in Bangalore spread that a Leopard was seen with its cub at Kabini (Nagarhole Forest) and was seen on two occasions. Leopards are the most elusive cats in the wild and hard to spot. I had never seen a Leopard with its cub despite visiting forests for so many years. On 13th April 2011, I along with few friends visited Jungle Lodges and Resorts,Kabini.
Our first safari ride in the evening was interesting; shivanand one of my favorite naturalist was with us. We sighted quite a few herds of elephants on the backwaters of Kabini River. The migration had begun and most of the elephants during this time migrate from Bandipur, Madumalai and Wayanad to Kabini. It was a treat to watch the elephants on the backwaters of river Kabini.
Honestly our interest was something else “The Leopard and her Cub”; shivanand did try most of the routes like the President road, Segur junction, Sunset Point, Niligiri Plantation & Mastigudi, where movement of the Leopard and her Cub was recorded, however we couldn’t track them.
We returned back to the resort and started discussing on are plans for next day’s morning safari. It was a misty morning; shivanand insisted that we try the sunset point on backwaters first as a tiger mating couple was spotted 2 days ago especially in the morning. We patiently waited at sunset point but no sight of any tigers, a powerful binocular was also used by shivanand to check every thicket on the backwaters but tiger didn’t make its appearance.
At the backwaters a forest official vehicle zipped in and I was happy to meet with Mr.MN Jayakumar – Chief Conservative of Forests (CCF), he told me that a pack of 20 wild dogs was sighted on the sunkada katte main road. We decided we will take a chance and drove towards that direction however no sign of wild dogs at that location as well.
We were getting little edgy as time was running out, we spotted a White Bellied Woodpecker at a close range and we started taking few shots. In the meantime shivanand got call from Basil another naturalist from JUNGLE LODGES AND RESORTS that a large male tiger is walking towards backwaters. Without wasting any time we drove towards the backwaters, it would easily take us about 20 mins or more to reach the spot, driver Muddu accelerated since we had very less time. Basil again called and informed that the tiger is now soaked himself in the water so asked us to reach there ASAP. We were still 15 mins away from the sunset point where the tiger was spotted.
As we were about to reach Segur junction, we saw a leopard crossing our way at a distance. We were in two minds whether to stop and shoot from distance or go little closer that had risk of leopard disappearing in the bushes. I asked Muddu to drive a little further; it was not worth shooting from some 300 mts distance. To our surprise the leopard that was gradually walking towards the bushes stopped, and turned back looking for something. Shivanand immediately guessed that this is the Mother Leopard we were after and he confidently said that the Cub is somewhere around and will join her mom. There is no way that the mother leopard would leave her cub alone.Our excitement after seeing the mother was already high, I didn’t waste much time and started to shoot the mother leopard. Suddenly shivanand whispered sir the cub is hiding underneath the tree stump on our left, with so much excitement around, at first I couldn’t spot the cub, this was highly embarrassing, but these things happen quite often when these beautiful cats are around. I could barely see the cub as it was lying in the dry grass and camouflaged but I fired few shots blindly and fortunately it was spot on.
On our right the mother leopard was patiently waiting and then she called her little one. In no time the cub sprinted as it heard mom’s call. I managed few record shot of the cub sprinting towards its mom. Wow! What feeling this was “A Dream Come True”? As the cub joined the mother both started walking towards the bushes, again shivanand whispered sir the leopard will climb the banyan tree that was few meters away, he was spot on, and both mother & cub climbed the banyan tree. At first they both hid behind the leaves, and then mother peeped out to check if we were still there. Since she sensed no danger or threat to her and her little one, the action began.
The cub had license to move around, in no time the cub was in playful mood by descending and ascending the tree branches. This was excellent opportunity for us to record and document in form of photographs. We also noticed that the mother was training the cub on climbing skills; I managed to take few shots of this behavior.We had completely forgotten about the tiger sighting at sunset point, Basil called again and this time he informed us that the tiger has moved from the backwaters and disappeared in the forest. We informed him about Leopard with Cub sighting and in no time 4-5 jeeps of JUNGLE LODGES AND RESORTS zipped in with so much noise & few tourists in other vehicles talking loudly both mom and cub hid behind the leaves and unfortunately the other vehicles didn’t get a clear view. Now that there was so much disturbance we decided to drive towards sunset point to take chance of the tiger, however there was no sign of the tiger so we returned back, it was laready 9:30am and we were already late to reach the exit gate. By now all jeeps had left, as we reached the segur junction same point where we spotted leopard and her cub. We again spotted mother and her cub on the same tree. since it was really late we had to leave the leopard and her cub and drive towards the exit gate, during this time I turned and looked back and saw that the mother leopard was still looking at us, this was really a touching moment and I felt we had built a close bond with these beautiful cats in a such a short time.
Friends this is one of the most beautiful moments and honestly a “Dream Come True & Dream Shot” for me. I had seen and photographed Leopards before, but not seen a Cub and God blessed me with this wonderful sighting & some worth sharing images. What a mother she is, you can’t image how difficult it is to bring up cubs especially in case of leopards that too in a Tiger country.
Info on Leopard Climbing Skills – Leopards are the best tree climbers in the big cat family. They spend a lot of time in the trees relaxing, looking around, playing, and even eating and sleeping. Trees keep leopards safe from their enemies, including lions, tigers, hyenas, and wild dogs.
A leopard cub starts to learn tree-climbing skills as early as three to four months old to avoid attacks from enemies. After making a kill, the leopard may eat at the site, drag the remains of the prey by the neck in its mouth, and pull it high up into a tree. The carcass is hung over the tree branches so the food will not be stolen by other animals. The leopard will eat the remains of the prey in the next few days. It is amazing that the leopard can drag a prey, which could weigh two to three times its own weight, high up in a tree.
Sometimes, a leopard hunts prey from a tree by hiding in the tree branches and waits. When a prey passes by, the leopard drops on top of it. The leopard may hunt monkeys and baboons in trees. The long tail helps the leopard balance on the tree branches. The sharp claws make it easy for the leopard to climb trees.