Close encounters of an exotic kind
“Thrilling,” is how the researchers dub their experiences at Horton Plains.
Initially, it was just camera traps to get the images of leopards and then the study team targeted the kills of leopards through video cameras to record feeding behaviour without disturbing the kill or the leopard. The only criterion was that it should be a predator-prey situation, where the kill was by the leopard itself.
“One evening, we got a tip-off of a kill and went there immediately. We were close when we heard the leopard growling, for it had seen us. We were in a spot,” says researcher Ravi Amarasinghe, re-living that moment.
While a DWC officer kept a close-eye on this Big Cat with its blood- smeared mouth, they quickly set up the camera and moved out, allowing the leopard to come back to its meal. It was “fantastic” because this camera had got footage of the leopard later sharing the kill with another.
Another such incident was when Ravi found that his cap was missing. Re-tracing their journey to the spot they had adjusted a camera, he found that it was torn to shreds, near the fallen camera.
“We caught the action on another camera kept parallel,” he says.
Unforgettable are those images – a leopard had approached the first camera and on seeing Ravi’s cap slung on the pole on which the camera was fixed, stretched up, sniffed at it, jumped up, grabbed it and torn it to pieces.