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Mating leopards in Rajasthan, India - Always read the camera/video instructions!


The year was 2004 and in the heat of the Indian summer I found myself in a little visited leopard sanctuary in southern Rajasthan watching a gorgeous male and female leopard initate the 'mating dance'.

Now we have all been in that situation of opening a new shiny piece of photographic or video equipment, casually tossing the heavy duty instruction manual away and learning on the job as it were. Infact, as a child, observing my father adopt the exact same technique - much to the frustration of my mother - clearly shows a genetic link to this type of impatient and gung ho behaviour. It actually often works; especially if, as I did recently, you upgrade you Canon or Nikon body and fundamentally still know your way around 95% of the key features. However in this case I had just bought my first video camera and reading through the manual was way down my list of priorities.
I was only 100m away from the two leopards, having used the cover of some trees to get down from my jeep and walk to an ideal viewing position; where I used a beanbag and handy branch to stabalise my filming position. The male leopard was beautifully framed by an impressive rock monolith and on a ledge above him, the female leopard suddenly jumped down and initiated the mating. As expected the coupling was brief and explosive. I can't describe to you that feeling of awe and personal insignificance, when you hear two big cats roar after mating - just incredible to be there.

I walked back to my two companions in the jeep with joy in my heart and a feeling that I was the luckiest guy in the world to have captured such a moment. We waited for the old fashioned mini tapes to unwind and enjoyed a few seconds of my first filming sequence of the male leopard relaxing on the rock........................then suddenly all we were staring at was a blue screen and I was utterly confused as to what had happened! So it turned out that this Canon video recorder had an automatic time out after 2 minutes of not filming and although I had see everything through the 'live view'' the mating sequence had not recorded - confusion quickly turned to embarrasment. Happily it only took me the rest of the India wildlife tour (about 2 weeks) and vast quantities of Kingfisher beer to get over my monumental cock up

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