04 February 2009

Snow leopard [Nainital zoo]

Snow leopard, Naini Tal zooSorry about the absence for the last 4–5 days; a new wireless router wrecked my modem and I've been waiting for a replacement. Everything seems to be running fine now (touch wood).

When I jotted down a few thoughts about snow leopards in June 2006 I had no idea I'd see one (albeit captive) in India later in the year. This female snow leopard occupied pride of place at the Nainital zoo in Uttaranchal (now officially Uttarakhand). While the idea of caged snow leopards must be an affront of the highest order to anyone with any sensitivity to the nature of these cats, at least some attempt had been made to provide her with a large, moderately complex enclosure. However, she apparently only enjoys it on alternate days, as she and the male snow leopard take turns in the cage; half their time they're locked up out of view behind the enclosure.

But despite her confinement, her instincts hadn't been crushed. I visited late in the day; everyone else had gone, and I saw her crouched, drinking, then looking about. She saw me moments after this photo. Perhaps she heard the click of the shutter. She turned to face me, then crouched. I knew what was coming — years of playing with cats leave one with no doubt.

She made a little run at me — I have a blurry photo of her in full, direct charge — then she scampered off into her artificial cave. I squeezed behind a nearby tree, waited a minute or so, then peered out. She was doing the same, peering out of her cave at me. We played hide and seek for a little while before she finally lay down and just watched me. I was almost in tears.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

9 comments:

Emma said...

I can't stop looking at this image. I hesitate to say it, but there is something that seems almost human about her here. Perhaps her expression, perhaps her posture. Like a regal human, somehow. Gorgeous. I loved the accompanying post as well.

christy lee-engel said...

Yes, me too, Emma - can't stop looking, gazing at every illuminated lash and whisker, as if somehow I could get closer that way. And then that snow-colored eye.

Thanks, Pete, for the entrancement!

butuki said...

What can I say? Superb... Wow...

Wish I had that kind of presence and dignity...

Barb said...

Amazing photo. Beautiful animal. I hate that they are in zoos ~ but really the only chance some people ever have to see such wonderful creatures.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete,
The picture is stunning, those eyes cut through to my soul. Your connection to this story via your text brings a quiet moment of reflection to my early morning.
Cheers,
Robb

robin andrea said...

That look on her face, and those deep perceptive eyes... hauntingly beautiful. It is so compelling that she engaged with you that way. I am always struck by those moments when you know an animal has looked and really seen you. Beautiful shot, pete.

pohanginapete said...

Thanks everyone. I was lucky indeed. Let's hope that the sight of one of these beautiful animals in the wild won't ever become nothing more than a memory.

Greg Brave said...

Wow! Wonderful capture! Such a wise stare, with a little pity in it.
Great photo.

pohanginapete said...

Thanks Greg!