“I have worked in some of the best leopard viewing areas in the world, but I have never seen anything like this: a herd of leopards”
The other morning we decided to bite the bullet and get up super early, braving the cold and heading out in search of leopards. We decided to head for the area known locally as Perva. It is a massive granite kopje towering over a tiny village of a couple of hundred people. We wanted to get there whilst it was still dark and before the villagers started their day.
The wind chilled our faces as we searched the surrounding area using our spotlights. This is renowned as being some of the best leopard habitat in India. Closer inspection of the granite kopje clearly shows you why: countless caves, depressions, overhangs and crevices provide ideal opportunity for a leopard to look out and survey its territory below.
Within 10 minutes of arriving at our destination we had found the remains of a fresh carcass. Closer inspection showed clear bite marks on the throat. The carcass was still steaming and the blood was electric red. This kill was fresh!
I took the spotlight and passed it slowly over the granite above.
Immediately, a set of eyes shone brightly in my direction. My heart skipped a beat as it suddenly hit me that we were mere meters from a leopard. I raised my binoculars to inspect the gorgeous coat when Kapil, the driver, told me that there was another set of eyes.
I put down the binoculars and scanned the area again… I counted two sets of eyes, then three, then four and then five! I grabbed my camera and managed to snap a few pictures of this phenomenal moment. It was dark and I was shaking with excitement so the pictures were not great, BUT I had just managed to capture five leopards in a single photograph.
Now I have been fortunate enough to witness some amazing leopard moments, but nothing can compare to five in the same photo…
The five stayed in the same area for a while, long enough for me to get a look at them in the binoculars. I may very well be wrong, but it appeared that the make up was of an adult female, two sub-adults aged about 8-months, a two-year-old (sex-undetermined) and a big adult male!
I would love to hear if anyone knows of a single photograph with five leopards in a single frame? – It is certainly a record for me.
The sighting was bizarre and I can assure you that we will be returning many times to this site, in the hopes of getting a better grasp on what is happening with the leopards of JAWAI.
Written and photographed by Adam Bannister