Thursday, 2 October 2014

Out of the Shadows





The elusive snow leopard steps into a
risk-filled future.

When a snow leopard stalks prey among the mountain walls, it moves on broad paws with extra fur between the toes, softly, slowly, "like snow slipping off a ledge as it melts," Raghu says.

"You almost have to turn away for a minute to tell the animal is going anywhere. If it knocks a stone loose, it will reach out a foot to stop it from falling and making noise." One might be moving right now, perfectly silent and perfectly tensed, maybe close by. But where? That's always the question. That, and how many are left to see?

Raghunandan Singh Chundawat has watched snow leopards as often as anyone alive. The New Delhi biologist studied them closely for five years in Hemis High Altitude National Park in Ladakh, the largest, loftiest district of northern India, and carried out wildlife surveys in the region over nine additional years.

We're in the 1,300-square-mile park this evening, setting up camp in a deeply cleft canyon near 12,000 feet. It's June, and the blue sheep have new lambs.

We keep one eye on a group crossing a scree slope, the other eye on the cliffs at its top. Leopards are ambush hunters that like to attack from above. While the common leopard of Asia and Africa relies on branches and leaves for concealment, the snow leopard loses itself among steep jumbles of stone. This is exactly the kind of setting one would favor. But I'm not holding my breath. Raghu has sighted only a few dozen in his whole career.

Read the Full Article Here : http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/06/snow-leopards/chadwick-text

 

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