Slumburing Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya)   2 comments

 

Leopard with tilted head3_sRGBLast weekend, I managed to steal a brief trip to the beautiful Wilpattu National Park, in Sri Lanka. It all started with a, hurriedly planned, business trip to Colombo and culminated in a two night’s stay, at one of Srilanka’s oldest national parks. Though I managed to spend just about thirty six hours or so, in this reserve, I have brought back indelible memories of the trip.

The planning was brief and execution was almost in real time. My friend Avinash, introduced me to Mevan Piyasena, a wonderful Sri Lankan wildlife enthusiast. Quick decisions were made, and I found myself in Mevan’s company, in the outskirts of Wilpattu, within twenty four hours of first speaking to him !

My original plan was to try and visit Yala National Park. But the time at hand did not permit it. So we settled for Wilpattu, which is also Mevan’s happy hunting grounds. Yala has now been consigned to the future.

Wilpattu, is around three and a half hours drive to the north west of Colombo. The roads are good and the view, for a large part of the stretch, is very scenic.To give you an idea, the road runs along sea shores and a number of lakes in the run up to the destination. The dense greenery of the park quite belies its location in a semi-arid region. It is like no other park that I have seen, till date, with immensely different landscapes all co-located within its perimeter. There are dense forest regions, there are vast grasslands, sandy beaches, open plains and lakes galore. Many parts of the park are inaccessible, but what I did manage to see was simply breathtaking. It is maybe the only place in the world, where one has the tantalizing prospect of photographing a leopard, with the sea in the background. I was not that lucky, this time around.

Leopards are the apex predators in this park. Unlike the parks in India, there are no tigers in Srilanka. Hence, unlike in India, leopards here are less likely to spend more time atop trees. They are comfortable roaming the plains as they rule the forests, in these parts. So sighting leopards was top of our agenda and we were not disappointed.

We started our safari at daybreak and by noon, we came across two sub-adult males – resting by the side of the pathway. They were not too far from the road but the dense foliage was not conducive for taking clear pictures. In Wilpattu, private vehicles are allowed inside the park and one is allowed to stay in the park the whole day. So in no time an army of vehicles descended on that spot. I was blessed to have a very smart driver. He managed to manoeuvre our vehicle into a position, where I had a clear and eye level view of one of the cubs. We stayed put at that one spot for well over four hours. This low lying tree trunk was definitely the cubs’ favourite. They kept lazing around and engaging in friendly fights all around this tree, while I clicked away.

This shot of the leopard, while it was looking lazily at me, is one of my favourite pictures, of this trip. Will post some more in the days to come.

 

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2 responses to “Slumburing Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya)

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  1. Nice writeup and image Amit. it was great hosting you here

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