Before I saw tigers in the wild, I thought leopards were the most beautiful animals I'd ever seen in the wild. I knew Indian leopards were supposed to be more elusive and harder to see than African leopards....but I tend to have good luck with cat sightings. I have never been on a trip in Africa without seeing at least one leopard - so I really hoped I could see at least one leopard in India as well. I did see one, fleetingly, twice (same cat) in Sasan Gir National Park. The poor cat was trying to get a drink but was very shy so every time a car pulled up he ran off - I got only glimpses, no photos, and from a distance so I didn't count it as much of a sighting.
Fortunately, I had a fantastic leopard sighting in Kanha National Park. We were on an evening drive moving through the park from Mukki to the other gate, and not far past the ranger post we encountered this male leopard right in the road. He laid down for awhile, then did some territory marking, and then walked down the road a ways, with us backing up to give him space. He walked within 4 feet of me. He had a slight limp and some scratches on his face indicating perhaps a recent scuffle with another cat. My guide estimated he was 4 years old.
He was stunningly gorgeous, as you can see for yourself, and I was the only car there and had about 15 minutes with him. It was one of the coolest sightings of the trip - and apparently very rare. My guide, Rajan, told all his guide friends about it and wanted me to show them all the photos as proof. They said "This does not happen!" Everyone swore it was one of the luckiest leopard sightings due to how hard it is to see leopards and how fleeting the sightings usually are. This cat was calm and unhurried and made no effort to get away from me. Good kitty karma once again.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
I saw a pair of desert fox just after seeing the Indian Wolf on an evening game drive at Little Rann of Kutch. I came across the desert fox when it was napping - Babu the driver saw the ears - then said there was a second one nearby. We got a little closer, pausing here and there for photos and not wanting to scare them off. Eventually one of the desert fox mated pair got up and trotted off in one direction and the other went the opposite way. They marked territory and explored, and we stayed with one of them for a bit, until I got worried it might feel "followed" and I wanted to make sure not to appear to be chasing it. These little foxes were so cute! And surprisingly small as well.
I really wanted to see an Indian Wolf, though they are rare and hard to see. At Velavadar, I got a glimpse in the distance of two of them - but not very close, and no good photos. I also got to see a wolf den there - it was so neat to see the baby wolf tracks near it and the hooves and other bits of animals that had clearly been played with by the pups. (Didn't get to see pups tough). At Little Rann of Kutch however, on an evening game drive, I did get a glimpse of a female Indian Wolf. My guide, C.B., took the best photo of the very brief sighting. Our driver, Babu, had forgotten his camera and was distressed to have missed his chance. Though I had a very brief sighting of this wolf, I was very happy to have had it!! She was gorgeous.
In Little Rann of Kutch, a dry desert area, my awesome driver, Babu, managed to find an Indian fox for me - actually two of them. I had already seen a lot - desert fox, wild ass, Indian wolf, a cool hyena den, and I was on my last game drive at Little Rann. Babu was determined to find me an Indian fox. Driving around in the vast desert plain, with everything the same dry color, I thought odds were not great....so when he said "There it is!" I was thrilled. I even had a chance to get a few nice photos.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Although it is famous for tigers, India has a lot of other species which are also quite rare and endangered. One of them is the Indian Wild Ass. The wild ass once had a huge range, but now the only place it survives is in the middle of India on the far west coast, in an area of vast salt plains known as the Little Rann of Kutch. Little Rann of Kutch is a UNESCO world heritage site. It's hard to believe that anything can survive in this desert like area, but depending on who you ask, there are between 2,000 and 4,000 wild ass left in the world, all surviving on small patches of scrub in the vast salt plains. The wild ass doesn't get the press that some of the other endangered species do, but it is an interesting animal and of course I love all equines!!!
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
I couldn't resist some photos of this colorful parakeet in Kaziranga National Park. The bird and its mate were eating seeds or fruits on a tree, holding them with a claw and snacking. I was pleased with my Sony Cybershot point and shoot for getting these nice shots!