Snow leopard: Himalaya’s grey ghosts.
Mysterious, majestic, and elusive. The snow leopard is not easy to spot. But when you do, the memory of it is etched forever in your mind.
I love reading. I’m happiest when I’m curled on a sofa with a good book clutched in my hands. Some time ago, when I first visited Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, I found a library with a fabulous collection of books on mountains. These were books on the conquests of mountains like Annarpurna, Everest, K2 and Kanchenjunga. Among this vast collection of great adventure I found one titled, The Snow Leopard, by Peter Mathiesen. I knew of leopards, but a snow leopard?
The Snow Leopard is a true story told of by a team of scientists who travelled the Himalayas, in search of the snow leopard.
The book spoke of a team of 20 people who camped in an area so high and cold that no trees grew there; there was only snow,rock and ice everywhere. Each day, 20 people searched for the snow leopard, scouring the mountains, trekking valleys, climbing peaks, but they never found the animal.
This fascinated me, 20 people, in the home of the snow leopard, searching for a month and still not finding the animal? How could that be? And it wasn’t that there weren’t any snow leopards around. Each day, they found evidence of the animal. There were paw prints (pugmarks) near their camp, they found the fur of the animal where it had scratched itself against large rocks besides their camp, they found its scat (excreta) — there were snow leopards everywhere, yet, they didn’t set their eyes on a single animal. As I read on, I learnt that there was no mystery here. It isn’t for nothing that the snow leopard is called the ‘grey ghost of the Himalaya’. The animal is a master of camouflage. You can stare at a mountain slope where a snow leopard might be resting and yet you won’t see it.
Since then, I have undertaken several expeditions to the mountains in search of this animal. My perseverance paid off and I finally found the snow leopard. It is the most beautiful animal in the world. Its fur is a smoky grey and dark rosettes mottle its body. Its tail is huge, very useful for balance on the steep mountains it lives and hunts in, and its face is wild and handsome.
We are lucky that the snow leopard has found a home in our country. They live in the Himalayas. People from every part of the world visit these mountains to search for this majestic animal. Some are lucky to spot this mysterious and beautiful creature, but many return disappointed.
I hope that one day you too will be drawn to the Himalayas. Will you find the ‘grey ghost of the Himalaya’? Hard work, great adventure and a huge dose of luck might help you sight one.