Leopards are solitary yet spectacular, cunning, and opportunistic hunters belonging to the big cat family. These fascinating creatures reside around the wild habitats in India. Although there remain unmatched in size as compared to other big cats, leopards appear splendid as they have unique characteristics.
Leopards are commonly referred to by the name Bagheera and Tendua in India’s local language. They are also called Guldaar (flower holder) due to their beautiful rose patterned spots or rosettes found on their coat.
Leopards adjust to any habitats easily. As India has dense forests rich with flora and fauna, it becomes an ideal dwelling for this animal. They are the only species from the big cat family that can be seen climbing and sitting atop trees. This and many other behavioural and physical traits of leopards make this animal interesting.
Their stealthy habits make them the deadliest predators. Recent cases also report that leopards enter human settlements and attack domestic cattle.
According to national estimation, approximately more than 12,000 leopards are thriving in India. They are distributed in the entire country, including states like Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh.
Although tiger safaris are popular among people, leopard safaris are not far behind. Watching a leopard in its natural habitat is a sight that can be astounding.
Here are some of the top places you should visit to see leopards in India:
1. Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary
Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Karnataka and is known to be one of the finest sanctuaries in the state. Leopards are the main wild animals for tourism in this sanctuary and can be spotted easily. There are around 100 leopards found in the Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary.
Alongside leopards, you can also witness the extraordinary and rare black panthers. They go by the name Ghost of Kabini and Phantom of the Forest in the park.
Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary is part of Nagarhole National Park and Indian leopards flourish at an equal density as tigers.
At Kabini, you can also witness Bengal tigers, Indian bison, Braking deer, mugger crocodile, and various other bird species.
2. Bandipur National Park, Karnataka
Bandipur National Park situated in Karnataka was also one of the hunting grounds for the Maharajas or kings. Today, it protects numerous endangered species of India.
Bandipur National Park is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and shares its boundaries with Mudumalai National Park in Tamil Nadu, Nagarhole National Park of Karnataka, and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala.
The national part has a deciduous forest and is located at the intersection of the Deccan Plateau and the Western Ghats. This becomes a natural habitat for the leopards which are spotted frequently.
Other than leopards, jackals, dholes, Indian rock pythons, sloth bears, wild dogs, four-horned antelope, and a sizable population of tigers can also be seen. The picturesque surroundings of the Western Ghat Mountains make your safaris rewarding in Bandipur.
3. Satpura National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Satpura National Park, also known as Satpura Tiger reserve, is located in the state of Madhya Pradesh in Central India. This national park gets its name from the Satpura range of hills. It serves as a great opportunity to spots leopards distributed around the park.
With its dense forests, narrow gorges, sandstone peaks, and ravines, the national park attracts a large number of tourists every year.
Although it is aptly named as a tiger reserve, the park is more often visited to witness leopards. In recent years, the leopard population has increased in Satpura, making the sightings quite frequent.
The pristine natural beauty and abundant biodiversity help one spot various other birds, mammals, and trees. One can also find the obvious tigers, mouse deer, flying squirrel, fox, blackbuck, Sambar, and many more.
4. Pench National Park, Madhya Pradesh
The beautiful Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh is situated in a flourishing teak jungle. This national reserve offers a secluded and quiet game viewing experience in Central India.
The national park takes its name from the Pench River which traverses through the park. The reserve is surrounded by an incredible landscape of hills, valleys, and forests. The dry deciduous forest of Pench shapes a range of exotic wildlife in India.
During a safari game drive through Pench National Park, you can catch glimpses of leopards resting atop trees or strolling through the forest. A recent sighting of a melanistic leopard was also reported in Pench where the black leopard was seen in the Telia buffer zone of the park.
In Pench, you can also encounter elusive Bengal tigers, Indian wolves, striped hyenas, jackals, Asiatic wild dogs, and many other wildlife species.
5. Jhalana Leopard Safari Park, Rajasthan
Jhalana is situated beside the urban Jaipur city and is famous for its large leopard population. Not only can you spot leopards inside the park but outside as well. Jhalana’s reserve forest has been developed into India’s leading leopard park for a better experience.
The Park is regarded for its diverse flora and fauna spread across the deserts, plains, rivers, valleys, mountains, tropical rainforests, and the Himalayan foothills.
Locals near Jlhalana have often reported sightings of leopards on the road at night where they even come close to a human colony. Yet, there haven’t been any incidents involving the animal attacking humans.
Jhalana Leopard Safari Park is a safe place to see leopards and increases the probability of spotting them even higher. In the sanctuary, several big cat species alongside jackal, striped hyena, Indian wolf, sloth bear, nilgai (Asian antelope), migratory birds, and various other species can be seen.
A special feature about this park is that it is located at a convenient distance from the city of Jaipur. You don’t have to spend hours travelling as a quick visit to Jhalana can be done in a few hours.
Spotting leopards in the wild makes up for a thrilling experience. Unfortunately, the population of leopards is endangered around the world as they are poached and illegally traded for bones and skin. You can support the conservation of these animals by visiting the listed national parks in India and performing your role as a responsible tourist.
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