Seeing a leopard is and will always be a momentous occasion for anybody who experiences JAWAI. Seeing two adult leopards together is such a rare occurrence that we all are left, sitting in the jeep, with an expression of total bewilderment. You can then imagine all our faces when on one granite outcrop we had witnessed three adult leopards together.
On a brisk winter morning with the first light peaking over the Aravalli range, a bespeckled head appears from a crack between two boulders…finally Sena Male shows himself after a few days of radio silence. As the light picked up so too did guests their cameras anticipating the confident male to exhibit himself and walk out from behind his rocky concealment. Like an audience wait for the protagonist of the play to emerge on stage from the wings after curtain up, Sena Male had kept us motionless with bated breath. We would eventually find out that this was not going to be a solo performance in any way.
The male leopard had been entertaining the spectators as he moved and sat on the rubiginous rock with the golden hue of sunrise blanketing his whole body. As he lay there he kept looking over his shoulder, his eyes continuously fixed on something unbeknownst to us. It was then only about ten minutes later that the mysterious entity that had held the leopard’s undivided attention was revealed: the leading lady made her debut to the stage. Moving towards Sena Male with a teasing and insinuating demeanour, she perched herself next to him. It seemed from her behaviour that they might be mating as she circled him and occasionally brushing her tail across his face. It was not long before they both got up and meandered through the boulders, the female leading the way while also bidding the male to follow her with quiet vocalisations. Had the curtain fallen then with the two leopards moving into a cave out of sight, their performance would have been so commendable, no onlooker would have been disappointed. But this morning was to be something of rare circumstance.
The male leopard had all of a sudden darted back the way he came. His broad, chiselled body bounded across the rock in long, powerful strides. What could he be chasing? A goat? A dog? A wild boar? Soon our question was answered as out of the thicket came a third leopard: a young male looking to turn this play into a Shakespearean ménage à trois. The young male, a Don John-like character (the conniving but unavailing antagonist in Much Ado About Nothing) failed to grab the female’s attention and consequently win any sort of affection. After a timid and unassuming sawing vocalisation, he quickly scampered back the way he came, running far enough away from the dominant male before secretly slinking off into a crevice of a neighbouring hill. Sena male, who had been joined by the female in the chase, searched for their intruder and with his vast lungs he responded with his own rasping vocalisations. Roving around the hill, they combed the area for this third leopard but unsuccessful in tracking him down they returned and rested near the same spot where the sighting had begun before returning in succession back behind the rock.
Despite the young male’s feeble efforts, it does seem that the female and Sena male will continue to mate which begs the question: will we be seeing cubs?