Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Nordic Ark, July 12th 2008. Part 27

Next up was something we were all really excited about: leopards. The Ark has two different species of leopard - snow leopard (Uncia uncia) and Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis). The latter is extremely rare - probably less than 40 specimens remain in the wild :-( - and we were really psyched about seeing it. It was the first of the two species that we came to. The Ark has two of these, and we spotted the first one immediately.

He (I'll assume this was the male as it seemed to be slightly bigger than the other) was a tiny bit depressing to see at first glance. He was a very handsome specimen and physically looked to be in great shape. It's more the mental side of it that I'd worry about. He exhibited clear signs of stereotypy - he walked a certain circuit (and a tiny one at that) again and again in a corner of the enclosure. Fortunately he did stop and wandered off, and only returned briefly to walk his circuit again. But still, it was sad to see it. HOWEVER: I very much want to point out that of the more than 80 species kept in the park, of which there is more than one individual, sometimes many more, of every single species, this leopard was the ONLY one that we saw which exhibited ANY signs of stereotypy whatsoever. So that overall, I for one was very impressed with the care given these animals.

Just about the coolest thing ever happened as we were standing there watching the male ... and yeah, cooler than being bitten by Chelodina longicollis ;-) ... We were all totally preoccupied with watching him and trying to take his picture, so that even though we knew there was another leopard in the enclosure we didn't look for it, we just focused on the first one. The other one wasn't anywhere to be seen anyway. Well ... yes and no.

Suddenly we heard this actually pretty scary deep and resounding growly sound. All four of us were really thrown by it - where on earth was it coming from, we couldn't see anything making it!!? But camouflage is a wonderful thing - just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there. The other leopard was literally right in front of us - literally right in front and maybe three meters away. She was just standing there, partially next to and partially behind a bush. But seriously, NOT in any way shape or form a dense bush that was actually concealing her! Just a stand of saplings really. She was clearly visible once you knew she was there. But her camouflage was just so amazing and totally concealed her in plain sight. AMAZING.

Can you spot her in this picture?? :-D

We got some great shots of them although they did move around a lot and weren't exactly natural posers. :-) It was soo fantastic to see them. Beautiful, elegant, lovely animals. We were glad there was glass between us and them, though. :-)

Their enclosure wasn't that big but it was very beautiful and obviously carefully designed.

(Photo credit: 1, 2, 4, 5: me; 3: C.

1 comment:

Oman said...

Here is a blog with images taken in Oman and links about the Arabian Leopard ( panthera pardus nimr ) http://blog.omanholiday.co.uk/blog/_archives/2008/8/2/3820950.html