The time came for us to leave Kaziranga in Assam and take the 6-7 hour drive into the hills of Nagaland for our next stop in Kohima.
However our dashing and fearless tour leader, Rohan (rumored to be the inspiration behind the Jason Statham – Transporter films), had a little detour planned for us. While out “networking” the night before, he had bumped into some staff from the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and using his considerable silver tongued charms had managed to wrangle an invite for all of us to visit.
The Centre does a lot of great work, rescuing, sick, injured and orphaned animals, nursing them back to health, before releasing them back into the wild.
A young volunteer gave us a tour explaining what they were doing and the processes involved, before finally leading us to the leopard enclosure where 3 leopards were being cared for, one baby and two adults.
The Boss, unable to contain her excitement upon spying the ‘big fluffy pussycat’ had to be restrained from putting her hands inside the enclosure to pat the animal. After all what use would The Boss without hands be to me? Who would massage the knots out of my tired shoulders after a day spent thumbing through the books on my Kindle?
One of the adult leopards was quite docile, but the other was angry and distinctly annoyed at our presence, constantly pacing back and forth in it’s enclosure, snarling away.
After a few minutes spent taking photos and marveling at the majesty of these big cats, we prepared to leave and it is then that I witnessed a sight, the memory of which has woken me on many a night, bathed in sweat and shaking with fear.
The Boss strayed a couple of feet too close to the angry leopard and in a split second the cat had covered the 10 meters from the other side of the enclosure in a single silent bound. Thankfully the first the Boss knew of it was not a pair of sharp incisors sinking into her neck but the sound of a huge adult leopard bouncing off the wire link fence that made up the leopard’s enclosure.
The speed and sheer power of the cat’s movement was an incredible sight to behold as I stood frozen in awe, The Boss making her exit as fast as her gazelle like legs would allow.
I will never forget that sight (the leopard, not the Boss’s legs) and it has given me new-found respect for this majestic animal.
A change of underwear all around, we thanked the staff and headed off on our journey to Kohima.