PHANTOM OF LANDSDOW

“A chance encounter of wildlife enthusiast Vinit Bajpai with a leopard amidst the green valleys of this hill station”

It was a typical Sunday evening in Lansdowne – kids playing cricket near my house, weekend tourists descending the winding road leading to Deriya Khal and an Army band playing patriotic tunes. I decided to step out for a walk without the faintest idea how unforgettable it was about to become.

Midway, I came across a rock overlooking a small valley and sat on it to admire the view. My reverie was broken by the calls of two Himalayan gorals. It was unlikely that they had been alarmed by my presence as I was nowhere near them and was sitting absolutely still. Which meant only one thing – they have seen a predator close by. And in Lansdowne reside only two such species – Himalayan black bear and leopard!

I triangulated the gorals, vaguely gauging their location based on their calls. A few anxious minutes passed and for once, I even thought of turning back. But I stayed put and then, in the fading light, about 150 ft away, I saw him – a majestic male leopard in his prime, walking boldly; its tail moving gracefully with each step. Luckily I was carrying my camera and instantly focussed it on him. An insignificant move on my part caught his eye and he halted in his tracks, staring at me. Then with his belly pressed to the ground, he moved behind a rock and stared at me from there allowing me to get a few clear shots. I left him crouching behind the rock, thanked him for revealing himself to me and came back home while he headed for his routine search for his next meal.

“I stayed put and then, in the fading light I saw him – a majestic male leopard in his prime, walking boldly; its tail moving gracefully with each step”

 

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