Leopard!

Wilpattu National Park has only recently re-opened after twenty years in no-man’s-land – a buffer between warring parties on the northwest coast of the island.

Mo and I spent five wondrous hours in this wilderness on our way back to Colombo on the weekend.  It was breathtaking.  This bountiful season Wilpattu’s renowned lakes were glistening in the breeze,  its deeply shaded swathes of forest defining wide clearings of luxuriant pasture.  Silent but for the breeze and the cry of peacocks,  it is a place apart from the modern world.

It is said some species (especially deer and wild boar) were poached to the edge of extinction, and that most of the park’s elephants found it safer to roam the countryside – raiding farmers’ fields – than remain within the sanctuary.  Much of the park remains too overgrown and inhospitable for larger mammals, apparently, so census figures are more estimates than gospel, but there were signs for optimism all around.

As the sinking sun began to turn clouds and reflections pink, shadows to lengthen and wobble, as the lone bull continued to bliss out in his watery dining room – the park became a place of legend.  Close to the forest verge, deer came to graze, peacocks to find a mate, and hornbills flew cartwheels across the sky.  Later, almost dark, we spotted another leopard*, stalking silently through the undergrowth.

Apologies for disregarding the phonephotography directive, but I loved the synergy of the Weekly Photo Challenge’s Future Tense with my sense of a future for this valuable resource – a glorious patch of wilderness that is once again offering shelter to the animals – once again a Paradise.

*  There are 20 leopards in the park, they think.  That we saw two of them is beyond wonderful!

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30 thoughts on “Leopard!

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  3. How fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to see these magnificent animals in a natural setting. Your poetic description compliments your lovely pictures.

  4. How wonderful that you had such a fruitful visit Meredith! And you got to shoot such terrific images. That leopard seems to be staring right back at you 🙂 I am rather envious, am yet to see a big cat in the wild, despite several trips to the local reserves!

    • Wouldn’t you know it (after all these years, both here and in Kerala – where i did hear them ‘coughing’ across the water in the evening) I eventually got to see a Leopard on one of my ‘farewell’ trips! That I saw two leopards way way beyond expectations, and that my photographs are legible is such a thrill!

  5. That looks like a magical trip! I love big cats, and I envy you seeing two leopards in the wild like that! (My husband would be all about the elephants.)

  6. an amazing once in a lifetime experience to see two leopards and catch such brilliant photos!!! the forest and animals are majestic … and that bull elephant is awesome … like a dream come true to see him flourishing in his own territory … thank goodness things survived 🙂

  7. Such a beautiful part of the island. I hope you’re right and the wildlife is allowed to continue its rebound. It would be a tragedy to learn otherwise.

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  9. Your “Hushed Like A Cathedral” shot is absolutely beautiful. It felt like we were following the path and entering a magical place where you saw all the animals. Stunning photographs. Elephants always look like they are laughing don’t you think?

    • They certainly do when they’re blissed out on juicy water-grass – when I zoom in to this fellow his eyes are almost shut in every shot!

      So glas you entered the Wilpattu world via Hushed like a Cathedral – I was pretty satisfied with just driving through the park, with scenery like that, until we spotted the leopard!

  10. I”m really happy you got to see the leopards! I’m planning to visit Sri Lanka, and I’ve read that seeing the cats is a definite hit or miss experience. Hope my luck is as good as yours when my time comes! Thanks for posting!

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