PHOTO STORY - THE PREY AND PREDATOR OF KABINI

Someone truly said and I believe it too – Big cats make their appearance when you least expect it, And this was one such day at Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, in Karnataka fondly known as Kabini.
 

Nagarhole Tiger Reserve (also known as Kabini), is a national park located in Kodagu district and Mysore district in Karnataka. It is one of India's premier Tiger Reserves along with the adjoining Bandipur Tiger Reserve. The park has a balanced predator-prey ratio, with tigers, elephants, deer, gaur, Indian Leopards.   Neeraj Bantia, a wildlife lover and photographer has fantastic shots of the Predator in action. 
 

Leopards use a combination of stealth, patience and in an ambush when hunting, they move in as close as possible to their prey before attempting a strike. Their power enables them to pull the carcass onto a tree away from other predators such as tigers and wild dogs. A leopard can lift 2-3 times more than its own body weight onto the branches of a tree. The monsoons are the best time to drive through the woods when the entire forest looks a green carpet with lovely contrasts & colours ideal for wildlife photography, however the other side of this is the animal viewing can also be very low due to thick vegetation and becomes challenging to sight the Big Cats as the dense undergrowth limits our visibility,   Someone truly said and I believe it too – Big cats make their appearance when you least expect it, And this was one such day at Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, in Karnataka fondly known as Kabini.   Having Witnessed & documented the rare Black Panther of Kabini on a tree the previous evening I was on cloud nine, but little did I know the stars had aligned for the greatest show on earth for the last safari of my trip. I began the last game drive of the trip that morning, it was a dry morning safari for the first hour or more and then as a matter of luck we spotted a leopard relaxing calmly on a bund in the open, a popular location known as president road at Kabini. The weather was overcast and I felt lucky to have spotted a leopard, I got busy making portraits of this young male leopard, He gave me some amazing habitat shots with the green backdrop, But little did I expect that a storm was set to break.

After this little show this young leopard gave, he slowly disappeared into the bushes behind and my heart sank, He decided to move and took cover inside the bushes, being clueless I thought we are done and I asked my jeep driver... Shall we make a move my friend? And my jeep driver instantly told me “Sir, let’s wait... I feel that the leopard will make a kill in front of us”, our jeep driver anticipated that the leopard has spotted this heard of spotted deer around 100meteres away from us slowly approaching towards the leopard's direction, completely unaware of the leopard’s presence as the wind blew in the opposite direction of the herd. Unsure of this, but with a big hope in my heart that his words come true, I decided to wait and watch. As I waited, the herd of spotted deer kept grazing and it came close to the same place where the leopard had disappeared, and as they didn’t give any alarm calls I was unsure if the leopard was still there in the bushes or had moved on. Suddenly we heard a single alarm call from the herd of 50+ spotted deer and the herd panicked and the music of the warning calls began with alarm calls given by every spotted deer, I guess they could smell the predator close by but couldn’t see as it was hidden in the bushes, the wild music of alarm calls continued, the leopard which patiently waited, stalked and finally broke the storm and came out of the bushes at lightning speed, targeting his prey with Precision, Speed and Power.   "The camouflage was so perfect that it took several seconds for me to realize from where the Leopard had come, I was lost in dreams and I forgot to pick up my camera until my driver said “Sir, Shooooottttt !! The leopard held firmly onto the throat of the fully grown female deer while the family and friends of the prey alerted the entire forest with their strong alarm calls continuously, the calls still ring in my ears sounding like bells from a temple."

The leopard sat down chocking the windpipe of the prey for a few minutes until it was sure that the prey has given up, I could witness the prey struggling to escape and finally giving up, Once the leopard was confident that it was dead, he dragged the dead deer towards the bushes, As the deer was a fully grown one and heavy to drag, the leopard changed his position and tossed the prey to carry it into the bushes, Just before he disappeared into the thick foliage of the dense woods, he stopped for one last time, turned around for a few seconds to give me one last glimpse of his prize catch for the day and the greatest show on earth by mother nature. Watching the eyes of the hunted prey and victorious predator is definitely the best moment in any wild lifers life, I felt truly blessed to witness this fine and rare natural history moment. The action was not over yet, probably the Rain Gods too held their excitement during this hunt and after the leopard vanished into the woods with his prized catch, the clouds broke and it poured cats and dogs.

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