Stories: When the prey hogged the limelight

When the prey hogged the limelight

By Goutham Shankar

Goutham Shankar, an avid traveler, photographer, wildlife enthusiast and an entrepreneur. In the last four years he has been running BookMyLens, an Independent rental-house (Photography and Videography/Filming Equipment Company) and recently started TheEditRoom (a post-production studio based in Bangalore).

While on a safari in Nagarhole National Park, India, with my friends, we heard a langur alarm call in the distance. We drove towards it, as the call got louder. We decided to stake out this spot. For 40 minutes, the calls went on and off. Now we could hear some kind of noise behind the bushes and the alarm calls were shrill; we had no clue what to expect. The only thing we were sure of was that there was a predator, and we just wanted to see it out in the open.

Then one of us in the jeep whispered, “Leopard, Leopard!” My heart began to pound the moment I saw the leopard, with the kill in its mouth. We assumed it was a langur kill and did not pay attention to its meal, but focused on photographing the leopard itself. This female leopard was very quick and kept an eye on us as she made a few leaps to cross over to the other side before disappearing into the woods.

When I reviewed my images later, the confusion began. It was not a langur and definitely not something that we could easily identify. We were left guessing as to what the kill was. After talking to a few people, we were able to identify the prey as a Flying Squirrel.

Leopards are opportunistic predators and are known to have a very broad diet, which goes with their exceptional adaptability. In few of the images, it appeared to be a lactating Flying Squirrel. Further reading revealed that Flying Squirrels tend to be nocturnal, except for the ones that are lactating and their offspring, which are diurnal for a period during the summer.

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