START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good
Dec 7, 2005

"Sal blossoms lie soft and moist under my feet like a fragrant carpet. Mists drift wraith-like through the trees pulled by unseen hands, and the rain plays a gentle refrain on the leaves. A kind of sadness fills the air and seeps into my soul. Even the birds and the crickets are hushed, as if in mourning. The mystique of an awesome, almost magical presence, never seen but always felt, is no more. The forest will never be the same again."

- P. K. Ghosh

While many believe the leopard population is increasing in India - particularly as a result of its highly adaptable nature, enabling the animal to survive in secondary and marginal forest, in close association with humans - the same cannot be said in Sri Lanka.

With restricted lands, and fragmented prey populations, the leopard is slowly being herded into a few remaining sanctuaries; islands in a vast sea of disciplined, agricultural land.

In the old days, at Wilpattu, Sri Lanka’s prime wildlife sanctuary, the reputedly elusive leopard, had become sufficiently bold to walk the jungle paths by day; flaunting its dappled coat in the shade of rain trees and lianas. But times have changed and the leopard has found its shadow unveiled by the persecution of humankind; becoming far shyer and essentially nocturnal. They now show themselves rarely. An occasional vaporous sawing call, a sudden explosive cough, the nervous chatter of monkeys, or the barking alarms of stags, may shatter the silence of the night, and betray his existence to the full moon. But the leopard now hunts invisibly; a spectre by day, a ghost of the night.


The leopard's natural history began around three million years ago, its origins in the primeval savannahs of India. The ancestral cat, with a heavy build suited to the open plains and sparse, dry forests, spread forever eastwards and southwards, leaving behind isolated populations as it travelled. These subsequently evolved on subtly different lines. Amongst them the Javan, the Amur and Anatolian of Russia and China and the African. Some even believe that the Sri Lankan race has evolved sufficiently from the mainland Indian leopard, to be granted its own sub-species, Panthera pardus kotiya. (‘Kotiya’ in Sinhalese, the local language of Sri Lanka, means ‘tiger’. It should actually be ‘diviya’ - I have no idea how this error was overlooked).

What is often forgotten in the evolutionary tale of the leopard is the close relationship it shared with a now distant cousin, the jaguar. Both big cats survived and continued to evolve, side by side, in Eurasia. From there, the jaguar pushed southwards into Africa, crossing the Bering Land Bridge into early North America. As the continents drifted, and the bridge retreated beneath the waves, the cousins became separated forever, leaving the leopard to roam the vast kingdoms of Eurasia and Africa alone. Throughout most of its range, the leopard soon retreated to the cover of the trees, out-manoeuvred on the plains by the lion and the tiger. Taking on an almost arboreal way of life, it lost its bulk, and became an agile climber, relying on stealth and cunning to catch its prey.

In Sri Lanka, the leopard's only real adversary is the sloth bear, an awkward yet deceptively efficient killer. But they share a mutual respect for each other's capabilities.

Perhaps it is the leopard's adaptability that may be its reckoning. As the contours of the land are changed over decades, at a rate not experienced for thousands of years, the cat may retreat to the highlands, or seek isolation in the remote mountains. Indeed I have heard tales of a mountain race of leopards in the hills of central Sri Lanka, in the Horton Plains National Park for one, where the cats have become paler in coloration and thicker in coat. There have been tantalizing glimpses throughout the years, but no true photographic evidence to my knowledge.

But there is a place where you may find them still, on Leopard Rock in the Yala National Park, in South East Sri Lanka - where I have been fortunate enough to experience the majesty of the animal at close quarters.

A solitary sentinel, a recumbent shadow, revealed by the setting, auburn sun. He may betray himself behind the plains grass, or the branch of an acacia; keeping his distance, and waiting. Waiting for dusk, waiting for the scents of this wild earth to return to him, where he may walk surely, the keeper and his kingdom.

Visibility: Everyone
Posted: Wednesday December 7, 2005, 8:33 am
Tags: leopard wildlife adaptation [add/edit tags]

Group Discussions
Or, log in with your
Facebook account:

Charith P. (165)
Wednesday December 7, 2005, 9:57 am
These 2 photos by the way, are of the first leopard I EVER photographed in the wild - almost 12 years ago. I still recall the experience with the same mixture of nerves and awe that I had back then (almost dropped the camera in my excitement - hence the slight camera shake - but who cares - I got the shots and thats the main thing!)

Eric A. (286)
Saturday December 10, 2005, 7:39 pm
A brilliant and deeply insightful look at a big cat that has become accustomed to living in the shadows of its patherine brothers. With Charith's help, this animal will not be overlooked.


Charith P.
male, age 42, married
Singapore, SG, Singapore
(0 comments  |  discussions )
Hello All, apologies for the absence - illness and a bit of enforced rest have kept me away for a while, but enough about that. I am delighted to announce that Season of the Spirit Bear will be premiering in this part of the world (Asia and South East...
(1 comments  |  discussions )
Hi Everyone,I\'ve just returned from a stint in the forests of Sri Lanka filming bears for my latest wildlife project. Just give me a couple of days to settle in and I\'ll be back on the network. Thank you all for the messages and the stars - will catch...
(0 comments  |  discussions )
At 2 minutes and 3 seconds past 1 A.M. on 4th May 2006, the time and date will be 01:02:03:04:05:06. It won\'t happen again for another 1,000 years. We should have a party or something - be thankful that we were around to witness it!
(0 comments  |  discussions )
I have already spoken of the organization \'Deep Griha\', The Lighthouse - a charity that is looking after over 50,000 people living far below the poverty line in the slum cities of Pune, India.Deep Griha is a multi-faceted organization, looking after t...

(1 comments  |  discussions )
Ashley is our middle cat and only female...She died 11:48 a.m. Thursday, 9 May 2013 at home in a valiant battle against agressive lung cancer.
(1 comments  |  discussions )
Ashley is our middle cat and only female.At 11:48 a.m. Thursday, 9 May 2013 in a valiant battle against agressive lung cancer, Ashley died at home.
(0 comments  |  discussions )
\\nHello, Urban Core!\\r\\n\\nComplete the form for instant access to your coupon. Print or bookmark the coupon and bring it to your first scheduled exam at your local Banfield, and the exam is FREE!\\r\\nWho We Are\\r\\nBanfield is a network of full-service ...
(0 comments  |  discussions )
\\nBEWARE OF THESE DOG TREATS!!!\\r\\n\\r\\nWagg in\\\'Train Chik\\\'n Biscuits and Waggin\\\'Train Jerky Tenders\\r\\n\\r\\n\\r\\n \\r\\nOne of my mom\\\'s friends on Facebook posted this:\\r\\n\\r\\n\\\"Ok everyone listen up. I just ran into my Vet they got a fax today and are ...
(0 comments  |  discussions )
All donations will help pay for the extraordinary treatments that Puppy has gone through and continues to get to fight for her life. She is a sweet baby and it is not her time to go. SO far her treatment has been successful but she is not out of ...

Mar 31
Blog: How to Extend the Life of your TRIAD Boilers by Kayleigh L.
(0 comments  |  discussions ) — \\nHow to Extend the Life of your TRIAD Boilers \\r\\n \\r\\nCorliss Engine Review\\r\\nEvery user desires to prolong the life of a unit. TRIAD assists their clients in achieving this important objective by informing them of ways they can avoid problems... more
Feb 27
Blog: Dr Oz Weight Loss - The 100% Natural And Very Efficient Diet Pill by Debra S.
(0 comments  |  discussions ) — \\nYes, Dr. Oz called Garcinia Cambogia Extract (HCA) the Holy Grail of Weight Loss. He went on to say, “Anytime I see a scientist get this excited about something like Garcinia Cambogia Extract and when I looked through some of this research and... more
Blog: My Favorite Websites by krysta I.
(0 comments  |  discussions ) — \\nIFAW:\\r\\nOCEANA:\\r\\nPETA:\\r\\nEARTH 911:\\r\\nANI MALs ASIA:\\r\\n \\r\\n\\r\\n\\n more
Feb 21
Blog: testing one two three by Geoff M.
(0 comments  |  discussions ) — hello world more
Blog: Garcinia Cambogia Reviews From Actual People Garcinia Pure Extract Is A Huge Success February 20 by Dany M.
(0 comments  |  0 discussions ) — \\nGarcinia Cambogia Reviews From Actual People Garcinia Pure Extract Is A Huge Success February 20\\r\\nGarcinia Cambogia System The Dr. Oz Lose Weight Quick Process Without Having Side Effects\\r\\nHe went on to say, “At any time I see a researcher... more
Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.