The lizard or the panther?

I used to obsess over spotting wild cats in their natural habits. Leopards, tigers or jungle cats, it didn’t matter. I would feel like a fortunate son of the earth as long as it had whiskers. While I gave up the search in favour of bird-watching, the felidae family members continued to haunt me.

Even now, when I explore the hills of south India, I keeps my ears open for an untamed roar. A guttural cough maybe. Any sign that a darling of the feline variety is on the prowl.

I haven’t seen a single one though. Just pug-marks and poop. But I can’t complain. I have had the privilege of seeing many other gorgeous beasts. Considering that I am not a conservationist or a census assistant, I should just shut up and consider myself a lucky bastard.

From Stripe-Necked Mongooses, Sloth Bears and Flying Squirrels to Monitor Lizards, Malabar Gliding Frogs and as of a few days ago – the Southern Flying Lizard.

I spotted it in Valparai while waiting for the Hornbill. A fellow birder had seen the male agamid lizard leap onto a stunted tree nearby. She directed my attention to him on the lower branch.

Southern Flying Lizard, Valparai

He boasted of a yellow dewflap that darted up and down, like a serpentine tongue. Every 20 seconds or so, he disappeared from our sight, by merely inching forward, given how well-camouflaged he was.

The Southern Flying Lizard is a primarily arboreal reptile. Dumeril and Bibron, renowned herpetologists, described it as the Dussumier’s Dragon in their catalogue of reptiles published in 1837. The name – Dussumieri – was in honor of Jean-Jacques Dussumier, a French voyager, who collected zoological specimens in India.

One of the reasons for my wild cat obsession is a specific childhood memory that I can never be sure of. I think I saw a black panther when I was about 10-12 years old. You can read about incident by downloading this:

The Boy Who Cried Black Panther

It’s a free PDF download (no, I don’t want your email ID either).

Also, did you know that a black panther is basically a leopard with melanism, and not a separate sub-species? 

www.conservationindia.org

source: Conservation India

Black is the sun
that filters through
my wild paramour’s
whiskers

(Other Photographs: Valparai)

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17 comments

  1. Christy, do you know who is your younger most follower? That’s my ten year-old daughter. She loves jungles and is crazy about birds and animals. We saw the movie ‘Winged Migration’ with her the other day and I was amazed to see the number of birds she recognised. She’s so happy about this new encyclopaedia. She already has quite a few of them. 🙂 Keep sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww Rekha, that piece of news has my heart aflutter! I m thrilled that your cherub has a passion for the wilderness. It ll teach her more than any book can, is my humble belief. How lucky she is to have a supportive mom too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. No wonder you were so excited to see our resident bobcat!! Cats…they’re okay, I guess. I do love the little scaly lizard so much it’s my Gravatar. And yours…such a cute little yellow dewlap! Yours and mine (the Green Anole, with pink dewlap) could get together and spread their pastel love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe okayish the domesticated ones. Wilder the more reasonable- their unsentimental nature, I suppose.

      I used to feel queasy around lizards, your writing about them along with one spiny lizard changed my mind, Shannon. Glad you likie!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I recently moved to Asia…sometimes I forgot to appreciate how incredibly beautiful wildlife is. The crazy mix between cityscape and the clear jungle that once was all around is very strange experience. Thanks for writing this post- it’s very grounding and interesting

    Liked by 1 person

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