On The Trail of the Leopard (Wilpattu, May 2010: Part 3)

Continued from here:

Of course while we were getting the full tour of the park we were also on the trail of the elusive leopard, the endless family yarns about fabulous sightings egging us on. We kept an eye out in the brush and white sand around the villus to no avail. My eyes burned as the green brush and twisted trunks flashed by the jeep and I stared out for that flash of black and gold. We frustratingly missed two leopard sightings on the jeep track by mere seconds, probably scared off into the bush by our engine, leaving only their pugmarks imprinted on the fine sand.

Pugmarks in the sand
Pug marks in the sand

The adrenaline did rush one more time when we approached a group of grey langurs that had gotten spooked by something. Some of the animals were crashing around in the trees while others craned their necks, staring at something off the road that was obviously of great interest to them. We spent a breathless, hot hour parked watching the langurs as they simultaneously kept a watch on whatever it was in the brush that excited them and us. Finally the monkeys lost interest and moved on, indicating the leopard, if it was a leopard had also move on. The whole time we had been scanning the undergrowth with binoculars but it was simply too thick for anything to be seen.

Watchful Langur

On the outlook (Courtesy PP)

Exhausted as much by the anticipation as by the heat and grueling drive, we called it quits and regretfully left the park, driving through swirls of yellow butterflies that had congregated on the road. Wilpattu, on our first visit, kept her secrets well hidden. As the animals have still not been acclimatized, Wilpattu’s wilds and wildlife deserve many visits and you will have to work hard, very hard for your sightings. Assuming of course the park survives the unplanned depredations that are being visited upon it now.

Butterflies bidding us goodbye