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Newsletter 57


The honorable Prime Minister on India
Dr. Manmohan Singh 
7, Race Course Road, New Delhi

I am down at Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa on a cold morning. A male leopard sits on top of a termite mound grooming himself. The red orb of the rising sun is like a halo behind the magnificent male leopard. 

Three game drive vehicles full of exited photographers take pictures of the prince. Nikons and Canons fire continuously, capturing the magnificent scene. The game drive vehicles have a ranger and a tracker who escort the 16 privileged guests. 

The rangers of two other game drive vehicles have booked their place on standby. When one ranger is satisfied with his sighting he will leave the scene and another will replace him. No more than 3 vehicles will follow the leopard at any one time. 

As I look through my camera, I notice a slight tear on the leopards left ear. Perhaps he was in a fight when he received the wound. I assure my guests that it is not serious and he will recover completely. Cleverly the leopard licks his paw and then pulls the paw across the wound. His saliva has antiseptic properties and in this way he self-heals himself. 

Suddenly he gets up and strides off the mound and the game drives follow. The rangers job will be to get the guests the best possible photos without changing the behaviour of the leopard. 

One vehicle is silent, it is electric, emitting no noise or poisonous gases. 

Another vehicle has just two guests who are professional photographers. The adapted landrover is fitted with swivel chairs so they can turn quickly. A built in tripod steadies the 500mm lens mounted on the Nikon Cameras. 

More than a million rands worth of camera equipment is on the vehicles and of the 16 guests, 13 have stills cameras, two have movie cameras and one child has no camera at all. 

The male leopard sprays marking fluid on prominent trees. The cameramen request a backlight position so the marking fluid shines in the sun as it is sprayed. 

Suddenly the leopard freezes and crouches, eyes focused on a small herd of nyala feeding 60 metres in front of him. The rangers request the guests to remain silent. This they do, but for the clicking of the motor drives, as a hundred images record the predator staring at the potential prey. 

A sharp bark, a flash of a white tail and the nyala are gone. The leopard is undeterred and moves on. 

As he alights another termite mound a family of warthog explode from their burrow. The leopard attacks but misses by millimetres. The professional photographers capture the leopard the warthog and the dust backlit all in one frame, its an award winning picture. 

As the leopard moves down the drainage line, the bush thickens. Fallen trees, pushed down by elephant, block the way for the jeeps as the leopard glides forwards. 

The photographic jeep gets a puncture, its a cruel stroke of luck, they are out of the sighting. 

Thankful for the opportunity, one standby vehicle moves in. My vehicle hooks on a fallen log, I can't go forwards, I can't go backwards. Fortunately another jeep pushes me off the log, I am back  in the sighting. 

Suddenly out of the bush appears two male lions. They are heading for the male leopard intent on killing him if they can. With the grace of an Olympic Athlete, the leopard jumps to safety into an ebony tree and climbs into the high branches. 

One alert and organized photographer, has captured the leopard's leap perfectly. His ranger has positioned him precisely for the best photograph he has ever taken. 

One male lion tries to climb after the leopard but falls heavily to the ground. A lady guest rolling a video camera, captures the fall and the thud as it hits the ground. She is ecstatic! 

While the leopard rests high in an ebony tree, two game drives take a break from the sighting. 

The third game drive decides to follow  the male lions who amble off and begin roaring. One guest captures the steam as it came out of the roaring male lion's mouth, it is an unusual abstract photograph. 

Two of the jeeps leave the sighting while the leopard rests at the top of the ebony tree. As coffee and rusks are served,  the guests fire questions at me in rapid fire. If a lion and a tiger were to fight, who will win? How does the leopard hunting style differ from the tiger? How do you save the last of the wild tigers in Asia. The verbal gymnastics is electrifying. These are passionate people very knowledgeable and well informed. 

One group of guests are Indian and they claim it is no longer possible to see a wild tiger or leopard in India. For this experience they must come to South Africa, to Londolozi and Tiger Canyons. 

The guests proudly show each other their pictures. E-mail addresses are exchanged as they promise to send each other their best pictures. New friendships are made. 

The radios goes, the male leopard is down the tree. The jeeps immediately rejoin the sighting. The ranger and tracker have fixed the puncture on the photographic jeep, the professional photographers are back in the sighting. 

Sadly one group are catching plane out that morning so they leave the sighting and the second standby takes their place. This brings the total number of guests who have now seen the male leopard to 36. The second standby jeep has no less than 4, state of the art, professional cameras on board. 

Unexpectedly the male leopard stops in a clearing and in full view of 3 game drives,  gives his rasping territorial communication call. Most of the guests have never heard a leopard call and even the rangers and trackers are stunned into silence. It is a magical defining moment.

It now becomes clear to us that the leopard is heading for a den site where two of his cubs are hidden. As he approaches the den site, he makes a strange chuffing sound. (Leopards blow through their nostrils, it's called chuffing).

Having worked with tigers, I am very familiar with the chuffing sound. Few people have heard leopards chuffing. It's a greeting sound rarely used by leopard but often by tigers) Now the female leopard and mother of the cubs greets the male with a similar sound. 

Cameras click as the leopards display "the kiss" as they touch noses. The mother leopard with a soft chuffing sound calls the two small cubs from the rocky den to meet their father. 

The sound of at least 8 professional cameras shooting rapid fire is deafening. A male leopard, a female leopard and two small cubs caught in the same frame, is a rare and unique scene. 

Having satisfied himself that the cubs are safe, the male leopard circles the den three times giving off his territorial call.  

The movie photographers are in their element as they capture the haunting rasping sound of the male leopard. 

The male leopard leaves the scene, moves into heavy reeds and disappears out of sight. The show is over. 

I would later calculate that 36 guests enjoyed the sighting and between 1000 and 1500 images of that leopard was shot that morning. 

In a symbiotic relationship, Londolozi has provided the leopards with a safe place to live out their daily lives. The leopards in return have provided guests with images and memories that would last for the rest of their lives. Each image would become an advertisement for leopards and leopard conservation across the world. 

Mr. Prime Minister, if you genuinely want to save the magnificent tiger, then create parks where guests from all over the world can interact with your tigers the way they interact with leopards at Londolozi. 

To ban tourists from your parks is completely and utterly the wrong way to go. To blame your inability to conserve the tiger on tourists is fraudulent to say the least. 

I urge you to reconsider your decision and I issue you an invitation to visit Londolozi Game Reserve and Tiger Canyons in South Africa and see for yourself tourism and wild animals working in a harmonious, symbiotic relationship to the benefit of all.  



After the success of our first competition I take pleasure in announcing our second competition. 

You are invited to send 3 pictures of a leopard and 3 pictures of a tiger. 

Each picture will be awarded a number out of 10 by the two Judges. 

After totaling up the total number of points, the person with the highest number is the winner. 

The two Judges are  Marsel van Oosten and DaniŽlla Sibbing. Regular suppliers of pictures to National Geographic they are well respected internationally. Their decision shall be final. 

The prize will be a Big Cat Safari for 2 people (3 nights at Londolozi and 3 nights at Tiger Canyons). Details will be on the website.

A number of specials on Big Cat Safaris will be offered during 2013. Please contact Sunette for details or check out the web site. 

Entries close for the photographic competition on the 30th September 2013. 

1) You have to enter only 6 pictures: 3x tiger pictures and 3x leopard pictures
2) Each picture score points out of 10 - winner will be the one with the highest number out of 60. One bad picture will give you a bad score...
3) Pictures can be taken anywhere in the world
4) Picture size: not more than 500KB

Do NOT send more than 3 tiger pictures
Do NOT send more than 3 leopard pictures
Do NOT send only tiger or only leopard pictures
Do NOT send more than 500KB per picture
You will be disqualified!

Good luck and have fun. 

Tread lightly on the earth.

Tread lightly on the Earth

Copyright 2007 @jvbigcats  All rights reserved

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