A snow leopard powers in for the kill. Photo: Inger Vandyke/DIIMEX.COM An elusive snow leopard on the hunt is caught by Australian photographer Inger Vandyke. Photo: Inger Vandyke/ DIIMEX.COM
Can you spot the leopard? Or is it leopards?
The snow leopard likes to take its prey by surprise, preferably an ambush from above, before dispatching it, usually rather promptly. Hence the need for camouflage. It’s all part of the game of survival.
It’s also part of the challenge if you are a wildlife photographer like Inger Vandyke from Cairns.
She is believed to be the first Australian to photograph a full hunt sequence of these endangered and elusive big cats.
She took these images in Ladakh, “Land of the High Passes”, in the Indian Himalayas, enduring temperatures to minus 25 degrees when she led a group of amateur wildlife photographers.
“It was my second time there and we had a client who had searched for them for 40 days without success,” she said.
“The encounters we had were extremely rare and can be attributed to being out from before dawn until after dusk. We saw them hunting, play-fighting and mating. We managed to commune with three leopards for five days.
“I was very adrenalin-filled and thinking ‘Oh, my god, don’t get it wrong’. I was terrified of messing it up. The opportunity to be around an animal like this wasn’t going to present itself again for me maybe in my lifetime.
“The hardest thing is the sitting. If you move, it will spook. It’s lucky that you don’t get hypothermia. Your brain stops communicating with your fingers and you are thinking you have got to press the shutter button. You are blowing condensation against the LCD screen which freezes instantly and your camera sticks to your face.”
It’s less of a game, of course, if you are the intended prey. Maybe a hare, Himalayan tahr (wild goat) or, in this case, a bharal or blue sheep.
A failure of the prey to spot the approach and survival is likely to be compromised. In fact, it’s game over.
Two years ago, 12 countries signed a declaration to “acknowledge that the snow leopard is an irreplaceable symbol of our nations’ natural and cultural heritage”.
You can see why. Or perhaps you can’t …
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.