She sat in a corner of her enclosure at the wildlife sanctuary.
She looked a bit tired but seemed to have not a worry.
She was raised all along in captivity -
she had not once pursued any hunting activity.
This five-foot long leopard was generally
always friendly with the sanctuary personnel
who made sure she was taken care of very well.
The wildlife photographer cautiously approached her -
waiting patiently for her outside her enclosure.
The big cat did accept his warm invitation
and came close to him to win over his affection.
Very gently he stroked her neck while she closed her eyes
and he thought she was so pretty and so very nice.
She kept rubbing her body against the sturdy wire mesh
and he kept petting her as he would pet his little cat.
The other two wildlife researchers slowly got into the enclosure
in order that they may shoot a much clearer and better picture.
She realized they were invading her territory
but chose to remain with this photographer only.
Slowly she began straying out
while the team of three followed suit.
She now began playing with the photographer’s shoelaces
just as any domestic cat would do in most places.
Her tongue managed to cause on his leg a tiny bruise
and then without any warning whatsoever or any clues,
she placed her forelegs on his shoulder and licked his neck.
She then pulled out her claws and dug into his shoulder -
now the taste of human blood made her crave for more.
Next she tried to claw the back of his neck
but he had studied animal behavior far too well
to know that he should now quickly turn his head
so that she would release his neck and
spare him from an instantaneous death.
His two companions watched in ghastly silence
and unconsciously kept shooting the gruesome event.
Now she caught the back of his head and clawed it badly
as blood gushed out in torrents and he screamed loudly.
It was then that one companion had the presence of mind
to deliver a hard kick on the animal from behind
and this made her set her helpless prey free
and also made the predator flee.
This heart-wrenching drama took barely two minutes or more
and the big cat now went back slowly into her enclosure.
After some first aid they rushed the photographer
in a jeep to the nearest medical centre
that was a hundred kilometres away.
After 42 stitches on his shoulder and the back of his head,
he thankfully lived to narrate on a television channel -
the details of this horrendous incident.
A chill ran down my spine as I watched it unfold on the tv screen.
Imagine the plight of the three researchers in the actual scene.
Wild life research may seem a very exotic vocation
but risks are aplenty for people in this exciting occupation.
30/4/2011, 11 pm
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