Jhalana, Leopard Land (2019)

Jhalana, Leopard Land (2019)

She saunters languorously, as if disinterested in the clutch of peahens and their weeks-old hatchlings that fidget nervously. A handsome black neelgai regards her with supreme indifference, secure in the knowledge that he is too big for her. But today, the young leopardess is not hunting. She seems to have some urgent business in the jungle.

Vexed by our stalking, she decides to walk past leisurely so that we could get our fill of her

Juliet, the princess of Jhalana, a 21-week-old leopardess, is unlike her tribe. She is out and out a city girl, neither shy nor secretive, but cat walks with the confidence born of proximity to gaping humans. She has known nothing else all her life. As a gambolling cub, she has always seen jeeps and heard the shrieking, gesticulating humans protruding from them, some clicking away with their bazookas. She probably knows they are her paparrazzi, best ignored.

Spotted something!

She yawns and stretches and purposefully strides across the jungle, smelling a herb here or rubbing her nose against a rock there. Our jeep follows her path,leaving her enough room to walk on the road. After all, cats paws are not designed for the rough jungle path. Like tigers and lions, leopards too prefer to walk on tracks rather than in the pebble-strewn jungle lined with nettle and thorny vilayati keekar.

Juliet, daughter of Flora and sibling of Cleopatra, like her generation of wildlife, be they black-billed ibises, red-wattle lapwings or neelgai, have learnt to live alongside humans. Otherwise, how do you explain the presence of some 20 odd leopards in Jhalana, a suburb of rapily expanding Jaipur city?