I lived with a leopard, it changed me…

Once again, many thanks to those who have read my blog posts since I started in 2011. At some stage I’ll put together an archive but as I said on the front page here at wildleopard.net, I’d really like to focus on the here and now. The leopard is facing huge challenges in our human dominated world, it is in the main a marginalized species which does not get the support the other big cats do or indeed like many other more favoured wildlife species. Here in South Asia, the sub species which is the Indian leopard (panthera pardus fusca) faces rampant poaching, retaliation killing (a ramification of human – leopard conflict) and an indifference with regard to conservation emphasis despite this animal being an evolutionary masterpiece of nature, over 3 million years in the making. This blog will in part examine the issues facing the leopard but is also strongly solution based. Currently, as of October 2021, I am preparing a new special page explaining why we need leopards.

I still get asked a lot about my experience in the rewilding of Asa, the leopard of hope. At some stage when the time is right, I’ll go into the story more deeply than I ever have before. For Asa’s security, as well as that of other rescued leopards I’ve been involved with since, I’m reluctant to go into too many details at this stage.

So just briefly, for those who didn’t follow the story at the time, I hand raised, with the help of a forest guard team in central Nepal, a little leopard cub (about a month old when we started but he didn’t come with a birth certificate) who as far as we know, had his mother killed by poachers. At about 8 months old Asa and I were translocated into the Annapurna region where we set up Leopard Camp and for the next ten months I did my best to keep him isolated and simulate a natural learning process for him to be able to hunt successfully and eventually live alone.

It was the most challenging experience of my life, physically and mentally, there were times I thought I may not get off that mountain alive, and that is after a lifetime’s experience in the outdoors. However, it was worth every effort and risk, the learning I got made me question so much, it made me dismiss so much of what I thought I knew, it made me change my perspective and it added to an already strong motivation to do my best for big cats.

In short, it changed me, I will forever be grateful to Asa for that. When we finally fully separated, a gradual process, I knew it was the right thing, Asa had been living wild and free for a while but there had to be that moment of complete understanding between us that he did not need me anymore.

So I’ll leave it at that for now except for a little about the image above. I have hours and hours of video footage as well as hundreds of still photos. I often used a GoPro strapped to my chest and when, as you can see, Asa leaped onto my back, I quickly unclipped the camera and shot some video before later making this screenshot.

The moment shows affection because yes, there was an immensely strong bond between us, we shared many great challenges together but it wasn’t always like this, Asa had a wild streak right from the beginning, his anger often meaning I was bloodied and bruised. That was the only way forward, the wild can be a bloody place, it’s not easy in those environments even for an animal as evolved and incredible as a leopard. Asa had to be ready for those challenges … more of those stories when the time is right…

When asked how the experience changed me, my answer at this stage is simple:

I saw the world through the leopard’s eyes.

I can be contacted personally at @jackkinross and jackkinross@wildtiger.org

Once again, thanks to those who follow, support and care about the issues I write about here motivating our work at WildTiger.