Leopard on My Doorstep

Tigers are not the only species of cat, which call Sher Bagh and Ranthambhore National Park home. On my second night at Sher Bagh I was awoken by a scuttling sound outside. Not sure what it was, and still in the midst of an unfinished dream, I turned back over and fell asleep. Next morning, whilst on our way for game drive, we did some very simple investigative work in an attempt to recreate the events from the previous night.

Neatly swept oxide rich sand surrounds my tent. Four years of tracking lions, and other animals, in the African bush means that I am always reading the soil like a newspaper. Tracking is an ancient art and skill that is sadly on the decline worldwide. Yet in Africa, and in fact in India, this art is still very much alive. After a few minutes hunched over above the sandy substrate, I was able to partly decipher a fascinating tale.

In the early hours of the morning a leopard had passed within ten meters of where I had slept. I followed the track and was confused by it’s actions. It appeared that the leopard walked back and forth. I also could not quite establish how the tracks seemed to be different sizes. I toyed with the possibility that there had been two leopards, but brushed aside my own story. I mean what are the chances…

The very large track of a male leopard
The very large track of a male leopard

I told Yusuf at Sher Bagh, that a leopard had been in camp the previous night. He was delighted and told me that we must immediately go and check the cameras. For this very reason, Sher Bagh has a series of motion triggered infrared cameras dotted around the camp. These cameras provide a glimpse into an otherwise secret world.

Immediately a picture of a female leopard popped up on his computer screen. Grins glowed around the office. Having spent my last four years working in an area in South Africa very densely populated with leopards, it made for an exciting change to know that these elusive cats are not just living here in India, but are confident enough to come close to human settlements. They are obviously using Sher Bagh as a passageway to and from the neighbouring Ranthambhore National Park. They must feel safe here, and this makes the staff proud.

A rather grainy shot but enough to very clearly see the single leopard walking past.
A rather grainy shot but enough to very clearly see the single leopard walking past.

The next few pictures that flashed up on the screen were even more astounding. A picture of not just one, but two leopards! I could not believe my eyes.

This picture shows TWO leopards. The second leopard is quite difficult to see...you need to look behind the obvious one. The timing was a few hours after the earlier leopard.
This picture shows TWO leopards. The second leopard is quite difficult to see…you need to look behind the obvious one. The timing was a few hours after the earlier leopard.
A zoomed in version of the picture above. It could be 2 different leopards, or one of them could have been the one we had earlier on the camera trap.
A zoomed in version of the picture above. It could be two different leopards, or one of them could have been the one we had earlier on the camera trap.

I had had a family of leopards pass right by my tent. Or was it possible this was a mating pair? This would have explained the abundance of tracks in the sand and the fact that they were of different sizes. The fact that I personally had not seen them did not matter in the slightest…I was delighted to know that Panthera pardus or Baghera (as it is known to the locals) is alive and kicking in this part of the world!

Written by Adam Bannister

11 thoughts on “Leopard on My Doorstep

  1. What an amazing experience for you Adam with leopards just outside your tent. How clever with the night camera.Interesting. I´m looking forward to Tuesday. Elisabeth

    1. A great question. Sadly, I did not get to ‘see’ any with my very eyes, but from the various tracks and from accounts from people who have seen them I would say that they are larger than the African counterparts. They are, interestingly, the exact same species. One could have a fascinating discussion on differing diets etc. Behaviorally, I would think that they are very similar, just possibly more reclusive as the ones in Africa will, by in large, be more relaxed and comfortable around humans. Also bare in mind that in India the leopards have tigers to worry about, and in Africa they have lions to worry about…so they make a living in both continents by being secretive.

    2. Trust you’re satisfied with Adam’s reply….it would be great if you could plan a visit to Sher Bagh & check out for yourself…are you based in India? Do let me know if I can be of any assistance. We are open until 15th May & close for the summer until end of September.

  2. What a treat to have first been woken up by rustling by your tent but to then find out it was leopards. Lucky you!! I’ll bet that next time you are woken up, by noises around your tent, you just might get up and take a peek.

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