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Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

My Panther Stories...

A unique panther at Bandipur National Park, Karnataka, India.
It was dusk. April, 2002. Bandipur National Park, Karnataka. We were moving slowly along the forest road, completely tuned in, three pairs of eyes and ears missing nothing. I heard my dear “Tiger Crazy” friend whisper “Panther” as our vehicle came to a silent halt. Standing on an exposed tree trunk, the stealth hunter was scanning the area. On seeing our vehicle she jumped off her perch and ran directly towards us. She emerged on the road behind us and as we watched, scent marked a tree! She then slowly circled our vehicle as we took turns with the camera. At one time we thought she was actually attempting to jump into our vehicle. The panther never made direct eye contact with any of us. She sat silently beside our vehicle and waited timidly. We moved on, as the sun set on the scene. Another fascinating episode in the Indian Forest for me! Sounds Strange?

Baby, Baby …

Just outside the Bandipur National Park, a nature lover runs a resort. One day he found a pair of panther cubs, orphaned and helpless, destined to die. He took care of these cubs with great passion, until they reached adulthood and then set them free, back in the same forest. One of them which he had affectionately named “Baby” thrived and became a “free living”, wild animal! Baby would often be seen in the “Kulan Betta” area of the National Park. Over the years, baby has given birth several times!

On my recent visit to Bandipur (November, 2007) I heard from the locals that she may be giving birth again as she has not been sighted for some time now. It is a possibility that Baby would have moved on... The panther we had seen and photographed the other day was indeed “Baby”!

Panther aka Common Leopard

Commonly called Panther, the “Common Leopard” co-exists with the tigers and lions and is found throughout India. Unlike tigers and lions that can be easily spotted in some Indian forests, it is almost impossible to guarantee a Panther sighting in the wild. However, this fascinating predator roams closer to human habitation than any other large cat. In fact this large cat is highly adaptable and takes dogs, cattle, sheep and monkeys regularly! It is amazing how close to human habitation these cats roam and yet go completely unnoticed!

Almost every nature lover who has been out in the field would have at least one panther story. Over time, scores of nature lovers have shared their “Panther” stories with me. Here are a few from me:

Langur Kill

On one special occasion, we were waiting in a “watch tower”, in the Nagarhole forest in Karnataka. All was quite. Soon, we spied a group of Langurs heading towards the water hole below us. Suddenly, some of them stood on two legs and started calling in alarm. To our amazement, a panther walked out of the bush with its kill. Powerful jaws clamped on the neck of the limp Langur. We watched in awe as the dangling prey and the predator disappeared into the forest. A stealth hunter had just ambushed its vigilant prey right under our nose. All the time we were in the “watch tower”, the panther was in the bush right below us and we did not have the slightest clue! For me, another everlasting moment!

Avoids humans

My first sighting was in the late 1970’s. We were on a “game round” in the Nagarhole forest, in Karnataka. Suddenly, a panther jumped down from a tree right in front of our vehicle and dashed into the bushes. An everlasting fleeting moment!

On another occasion in the same forest, we sighted a mother and her two grown up cubs.

I had another brief glimpse in the Sariska forest, Rajasthan. A panther dashed across the road in front of our vehicle and disappeared.

More recently, in the Bandipur forest in Karnataka, we saw a panther staring at us from inside the bush.

On all the above occasions the actual sighting lasted for less than a minute. I guess this shows that the animal takes great pains to avoid humans and there in may be a clue to its survival secret!

Unafraid of humans

My friend owns a small property skirting the Bandipur National Park. It was evening. We had just returned from our wandering in the forest. The walki crackled. The caretaker had sighted a panther. Excited, we quickly walked outside. We could hear alarm calls of Sambar close by. We had only taken a few steps in anticipation when we saw a panther sitting on the path leading to the house! On seeing us it silently took a small diversion into the bush. It then reappeared only a few feet from us, on the path we had just walked! As we watched, the lovely male panther slowly walked into the forest without giving us a second glance! The alarm calls continued into the night.

Closer than you think!

30 kms outside Bangalore City, just skirting the Savandurga Range, I spent a quite rainy November night in solitude. In the morning as I stepped out of the house, I saw fresh pug marks of a panther right outside the main door! I followed the pugmarks to a small water body inside the property where the panther had taken a drink. Later some of my nature lover friends visited the spot and took some castings of the pugmarks.

Just 25 kms outside Bangalore City, off Kanakapura road is a property owned by a friend of mine. He has built a beautiful house there that he visits once in a while. He has several pet dogs here. In the night he would let these dogs out of their kennel. They would roam freely in the property. One morning he found one dog fully eaten and another dead. Pugmarks of a panther with its cubs all over the place!

Again, just about 30 kms outside Bangalore City, skirting the Bannerghata forest is another lovely house, built by a friend. He had taken some visitors on that day to the nearby hill. To their amazement, they found a panther feeding her two cubs on the hill! One of them managed to photograph the “not too bothered” panther.

This elusive, stealth hunter found in India is a fascinating animal to encounter in the wild. If you have not had the opportunity yet, I do hope you will be able to see one in the near future!

Be sure to take a good look! They are elusive …

On my visit to Bandipur this time (November, 2007), we thought this rock was a panther with a kill !
Vijay Cavale
November, 2007

See my ->  Leopards