Part of what makes writing the book I’m woking on challenging is that in spite of the photographs that document everything (and there are pictures of most of it, just as there's a picture of the dog in the clouds), still, parts of it seem hard to believe. Even to me, and I was there. Here, for example, are pictures of three cats.
The first was a wild civet cat who had spent her life hunting along the Terai forests of southern Nepal. Some friends and I were standing in a clearing when a field biologist noticed her sticking her head out of cover in the bush and looking at us. She watched us for a couple of minutes, then seemed to make her mind up about something. She wasn't walking well. She was slow. She came straight to me and lay beside me. After a moment, I lowered myself gently to touch her. She let me to stroke her face and soon she closed her eyes the way any petted animal does. My friends tried to approach, but she snarled at them. Only I was allowed. In a moment she moved closer and placed her face on my foot. She curled up a little and died.
Ten years later I met this ocelot in Belize. She insisted that I play with her for more than an hour.
Finally there was the rescue of two orphaned leopards, back in Nepal. This little girl, Bhatani, at the age of four weeks, couldn’t make it across a river with her mother and brother. She was left behind and at the mercy of villagers who beat her on the head with sticks. They wanted her dead, but only managed to blind her in one eye. When I met Bhatani she was awaiting her fate alone in a chicken cage. Working with local conservationists, a deal was made to lodge her at the King’s camp in return for funding to build an enclosure and upkeep for food and veterinary care. Not long after, there was news of another orphaned cub - a boy - at another station. It seemed that as they were both destined for lives in captivity (no leopard had ever been successfully reintroduced to the wild, and the government was unwilling to consider any attempts to do so), at least they could have each other’s company. Being in different provinces complicated the bureaucratic fight. It took six months of wrangling and traveling back and forth between Kathmandu ministry headquarters and the jungle. But finally we were able to get them together.
Maybe I'll post a few of these old pictures from time to time.