Camouflage

You may think that leopards (Panthera pardus) are brilliantly coloured, and the rosettes on their fur make them look cheerful and pretty. But these two cubs were hard to find as they sat still on an exposed rock. The spotted skin blended into the spotted appearance of the granite in their natural habitat. Quite apart from the bit of natural camouflage, they usually evade the eye by their perfect stillness when they don’t want to be seen. These three months olds were frisky, for leopards. It was their movement which gave them away. You can see in the featured photo that one of the cubs was playing with its sibling’s tail. At this age, a leopard’s skin has little gold on it. That develops with age, perhaps because the spotted gray pelt is better camouflage when the cubs are still.

In order to show how hard spotting a leopard can be, I took the series of photos which you can see in the slideshow above. It is actually even harder than it may seem from the slideshow, since you already suspect that the leopards are more or less in the center of the frames. In the wild you could keep scanning a wall of granite for many minutes before you can see them. In this case the light made the amber skin glow, and there was a little movement, so it wasn’t very hard. It took me most of the weekend to learn to look for them, to recognize the shapes of lines in the rocks which cannot be the result of natural weather.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

16 comments

  1. And you have now explained why we saw so few leopards during our 8 years in Kenya. They were probably there, but too well camouflaged. The one time I had a good view, it was completely unlikely. There had been a lot of El Nino rain, and I was out on a night drive in the Rift. The guide happened to run the spotlight along the top of a grassy ridge, and a large leopard face popped up above the wet grass and just stared at us. And stared at us. Thrilling!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When we were in Zimbabwe I saw how hard it was to see the largest animals. Elephants seemed to melt into the foliage and zebras were nearly impossible to pick

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What beautiful animals! I really like how you’ve used the slideshow to illustrate the challenges of spotting them. We did see a distant mother with cubs on a similar outcrop when in Rajasthan (near Narlai) but I’m sure we wouldn’t have done so had we not been with an expert guide from our hotel who knew what to look for and pointed them out to us 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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