Close en­coun­ters of an ex­otic kind

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS -

“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.

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