The leopard in a dramatic new photo turns out to be the same one photographed by a camera trap nearly eight years ago. The photo shows a male leopard dragging a massive gaur (or Indian bison) calf in Karnataka’s Bandipur Tiger Reserve.
The photo was taken by the Indian photographer Vinay S. Kumar, and was “initially submitted to Conservation India, a not-for-profit portal to enable conservation action. Intrigued by the picture, CI’s editors sent it to researchers at Wildlife Conservation Society’s India Program who have been running a tiger-monitoring program for over two decades — the longest in the world. Their huge database of camera trap pictures also includes hundreds of pictures of leopards.”
The male leopard was identified, using special computer software that can compare rosette patterns, as Bandipur Leopard #123 or BPL-123. This leopard was first camera-trapped on December 2, 2004, says Dr. N. Samba Kumar, Joint Director — Conservation Science, WCS — India.
“The intensive, long-term camera trapping project, implemented by the Centre for Wildlife Studies, in collaboration with the Karnataka Forest Department, and with support from Wildlife Conservation Society, has yielded extremely valuable data on large carnivore densities, as well as recruitment and survival rates, all of which are crucial to gauge how big cat populations are faring. Research at Bandipur Tiger Reserve has shown that tiger densities are quite high (10-15 tigers/100 km2).”
“Photographs can help track the life histories of individual tigers — and as can be seen in this case, leopards,” said Ullas Karanth, director of WCS’s India Programs. “In this context, even photographs taken by tourists can be valuable in providing additional information. As this particular ‘catch’ shows, BPL — 123 is thriving, and his superb condition is perhaps an indicator of the health of his habitat too.”
“Leopards are legendary for hauling prey much larger than themselves into trees to keep them from the clutches of other predators. The gaur in the image probably weighs about 100 kilograms (220 pounds), while a full-grown male Indian leopard on the other hand, would weigh between 50-70 kilograms (110- 154 pounds).”
Some basic information on leopards:
“The leopard, Panthera pardus, is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four ‘big cats’ in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion, and jaguar. The leopard was once distributed across eastern and southern Asia and Africa, from Siberia to South Africa, but its range of distribution has decreased radically because of hunting and loss of habitat. It is now chiefly found in sub-Saharan Africa; there are also fragmented populations in the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Indochina, Malaysia, Indonesia, and China. Because of its declining range and population, it is listed as a ‘Near Threatened’ species on the IUCN Red List.”
“Compared to other members of the Felidae family, the leopard has relatively short legs and a long body with a large skull. It is similar in appearance to the jaguar, but is smaller and more slightly built. Its fur is marked with rosettes similar to those of the jaguar, but the leopard’s rosettes are smaller and more densely packed, and do not usually have central spots as the jaguars do. Both leopards and jaguars that are melanistic are known as black panthers.”
“The species’ success in the wild is in part due to its opportunistic hunting behavior, its adaptability to habitats, its ability to run at speeds approaching 58 kilometres per hour (36 mph), its unequaled ability to climb trees even when carrying a heavy carcass, and its notorious ability for stealth. The leopard consumes virtually any animal that it can hunt down and catch. Its habitat ranges from rainforest to desert terrains.”