de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2004). The Rise of the Talgas Female Leopard Cub. Serendipity. June 2004. Page 8.
Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne finds a new Leopard star in Yala.
A darkened sky, laden with the promise of rain, greeted us as we entered Yala. Unusually late rains in May had left the waterholes brimming with water. The most air and darkened skies foretold that more rain was to come. My mood was not any brighter or lighter than the inclement weather. My last visit to Yala in April had seen me on three game drives without a Leopard sighting. There had been plenty of evidence, footprints, including one very large set. Alarm calls of Spotted Deer had betrayed the presence of the top predator, only a few hundred meters away in the scrub jungle. But alas, out of sight.
The two famous Kotabendi Wewa cubs who had provided the entertainment in the latter half of 2003 and the first quarter of 2004 had slipped off stage. The brother and sister were no longer cubs. At around eighteen months of age, they were now discovering sub-adulthood. The sister, named Kotabandiwewa female Cub No 1 (Kbfc1), would probably find a territory close to her mother, Talgasmankada Female No 1 (Tf1). The brother, Kbmc1, would be doing nightly forays, further and further away from the mother’s territory. As a sub adult, he would have to co-exist carefully with other adults, unless, he is fortunate enough to find a vacant territory. More likely, he would have to wait until he was at least three years old before he could mount a challenge to carve out a territory from other adults. He may even perish in the search to establish a territory. Death from starvation or in an aggressive encounter with another male, were likely possibilities in the arithmetic of life.
With the two superstars acquiring adult-like nocturnal behavior, I did not expect anything but a fleeting sighting or two. I resigned myself to photographing flowers. Lunuwarana was in bloom with the anthers of its flowers droopping gracefully out of its sepals. Wal Pichcha, with its delicate white blossoms, adorned many a bush. A hint of blue along the branches betrayed clusters of Memocylon. The Capparis trees had large whitish flowers, some with a hint of color on the inside bases of the petals.
The dull light was not ideal, but at least it avoided the harsh shadows rendered by bright light. I was happy to spend time on the flowers, something too many visitors to the park neglect. But they are as every bit as beautiful as the mega fauna which competes for attention.
A jeep passed by and informed us of a leopard with a Kaballawa . I was incredulous. A Kaballawa is an Indian Pangolin. A shy nocturnal animal which I had never seen before in my life. Even many of the most seasoned rangers in the national parks had never seen one. The closest I had come to seeing was to see the dead body of one floating in a ditch, perhaps drowned by heavy rains.
Priyantha at the wheel sped off to the Talgasmankada Bungalow junction where we found another three jeeps watching the leopard. It was Trfc1 which had been seen regularly around here in the past few weeks. She was one of three siblings, which had at times been seen all together with their mother, by a few lucky observers. Some had even been lucky to see the three, with a male leopard in attendance, an outrageously lucky sighting of four leopards together. The cub, Trfc1, was seated calmly a few feet away from an injured Indian Pangolin. The pangolin was curled up defensively into a ball. The cub seemed content to stay there forever. But sadly, as the jeeps pulled in, the behaviour of the observers left much to be desired. Too many people began to climb onto the rooves of their vehicle. Too many people began talking loudly. Un-nerved, the cub walked up to the Pangolin, gave it a wary pat and wandered off. A while later, the injured Pangolin, struggled away.
Over the next few days, I saw Trfc1 twice. I also saw one of her brothers on a Maliththan Tree near Koma Wewa on a Spotted Deer kill. He clambered down and lay down with his mother, less than ten feet from the vehicle, but shielded by the scrub. I had to leave them, as tomorrow was another busy day in the office. But I will be coming back with in happier frame of mind. At least for another three months, the Talgasmankada cubs, or at least the female, will shine. Another star has emerged.
The writer is the CEO of a Wildlife & Luxury Travel Company. To receive his free, monthly wildlife e-Newsletter, e-mail him at with “Subscribe Wildlife News” in the message header.