Panthers and their Taste of Diet

Panthers and their Taste of Diet

panther leopard with guinea worm infection exist in udaipur

My father, Mr. T. H. Tehsin, started big game hunting in the first quarter of this century when the animals were in abundance and ended it in early sixties when the jungles started depleting owing to habitat destruction, and subsequently resulting in drastic decline in animal population. His favourite game was panther shooting and got repeated requests to cull man-eaters and cattle-lifters. When he left hunting, he used to study these animals by stalking them on foot at night armed with only a torch and would try to approach them as close as possible, sometimes even less than 10 feet.

Some of his previous experiments on these animals are worth noting and one of them is as under:

He chose a combination of different animals to see what type of bait was generally preferred by panthers. He did these experiments in different jungles near Udaipur. Animals used as baits each time were a dog, goat, pony, pig and a young buffalo. They would be tied on a promising game path in a semi circle about ten yards apart, on a good moonlit night, in a clear patch. From early 1930s to 1945 he did these experiments seven times. Out of seven, six panthers were shot after the first kill. The seventh time the order was maintained up to the last kill and this time the panther was also spared. My father used to watch the happenings from a blind near the baits.  

In the summer of 1932, there was a hunting camp at Andheri-Amba, a very remote place with beautiful jungles teeming with animals in the Marwar region of Aravalli Hills, southwest of Udaipur city. About a couple of hundred yards from the campsite there was a pool of water. Pugmarks of a male panther were regularly seen near the pool. My father tried his first experiment here. All the five animals were tied as baits about a hundred yards away from the pool. He took up his position about thirty yards from the baits. As the place was very quiet, the panther appeared at dusk and was bewildered to see the assortment of prey waiting for him.

He jumped here and there, sometime backwards, inspecting the animals in the midst of snorting, grunting, whining and stamping. He seemed to be undecided and quite confused in this situation. After fifteen minutes of this behaviour, at last he chose the dog and killed it. He dragged the carcass about fifteen yards away by rooting up the nail of the chain to which the dog was tied and devoured it there.

Next day the remains of the dog were found in the vicinity. Except for a few bones and pieces of skin and head, nothing was left. These were tied in a bundle and dragged to the place where it was killed the previous night and were covered. In the evening the cover was removed and other animals were tied in their respective positions. My father took up his position in the blind. The panther turned up quite late this time and went straight to the place where he had left the remains of the dog last night. From there he tracked it with some difficulty. Unconcerned with other animals he lifted the bundle in his mouth and went off. This time a little farther away. At night he remained busy with the remains, cracking bones. At dawn he was shot while retreating. He appeared to be a game killer. A beautiful panther, he measured 2.18m between pegs.

Second experiment was conducted at Bechawera-Ki-Nal. Here a pantheress appeared and after a brief inspection of all the animals she went for the pig and with some difficulty she managed to kill it. She ate it where it was. In the morning when my father stepped out of the blind, she was hiding in a bush near the kill and growled at the intruder. She was reluctant to leave the kill. She left the kill when my father threw some stones in the bushes. Next night she was shot while feeding on the remains of the pig and was measured to be 1.54m between pegs.

Third time it was again a pantheress in the jungles of Kamal-Nath. After a brief look, she also went for the pig. Next night she was shot and measured 1.9m between pegs.

Next experiment was carried out in Sandol-ki-Nal. This time it was a male panther. He was also amused at the sight of so many animals. He sat on his haunches at the epicentre of the semi-circle and watched the animals for about five minutes from the same position. Then he attacked the pony and made a good meal out of it. Next night he was shot while busy with the remains of the pony. He was measured 2.10m between pegs.

At Ad-Kalia shooting camp, my father got an opportunity to repeat his experiment. Without a moment’s pause, the panther straightaway went for the pony. After killing it, he gnawed the rope and dragged the carcass 37m away. The dog was constantly whining and barking. At about 11.00PM, the panther again appeared and killed the dog but did not touch the carcass. He again went to his first kill and had his fill. Next night he was shot when he visited the carcass of the pony. A good male, measured 2.25m between pegs.

The next opportunity to repeat his experiments was at Pirohitji-ka-Talab. Here a young panther turned up. He too was very confused to see the variety of animals awaiting him as his dinner. He played happily for some time, and then he killed the pony. After tearing the stomach and devouring the soft contents, he left the carcass and moved quite close to the pig. Again, he went to the carcass and had a few mouthfuls of pony flesh. Then he changed his mind and attacked the pig and remained on it for the rest of the night. Next night he started eating the remains of the pig and was shot. It was a male panther measuring 1.85 m between pegs.

The last experiment of this type was carried out by my father at Delwas hunting camp in the year 1945. In the heart of the jungle there was a small lake and just at the end of the dam of this lake there was a cottage. Here our family stayed for two and a half months. A big panther was a regular visitor every night and used to pass near our cottage to quench his thirst from the lake. My father carried out his experiment yet again. All the animals were tied in the same way and on the first night the pony was the victim. The carcass was removed in the morning. After a gap of one night, the remaining animals were tied in their respective positions. This time the pig was the victim. The process was repeated, and the next number was that of the goat. Then he took the dog. The buffalo was spared by the panther for seven consecutive nights, though he passed quite near to it and on two occasions he circled round the bait. 

On the 8th night the buffalo was taken. For six nights the panther visited the remains of the buff, though it was stinking bad and maggots were crawling all over it. Though the panther was not shot, it was an exceptionally big male. My father guessed it to be 2.40-2.45m.

From the above experiments, my inference is as under:

  1. It is quite clear that these feline individuals have their own taste of flesh. They do not go for quantity but if there is a choice, they go for quality according to their own taste.
  2. Females are more inclined to fatty meals than the males.
  3. They are less interested in beef.
  4. Those felines who become man-eaters kill man occasionally. Some are regular man killers and take heavy toll of human life. For this habit of big cats, the above-mentioned experiment will give some clues. This may be of some help to those who are working on man-eaters.
  5. The game killer chose the dog. He might have encountered other animals in his jungle wanderings because apart from dog, other animals are driven into the jungle for grazing. Perhaps it may not have had an encounter with a dog. Hence, it added a new dish to its menu.
  6. Panthers are not so destructive. Beyond their need they seldom kill any animal. Though I have had an experience of a panther that killed 22 sheep from a herded pen and did not touch a single carcass, these are exceptions. In general, they are a disciplined lot.
  7. They are not greedy.
  8. In general, they are quite tolerant of disturbances near their kill, although a few do resent interference.
The above article was first Published in Indian Forester (Tehsin, R. H. (1993) Panthers (Panthera pardus) & Their Taste of Diet. Ind. For. 119(10): 875 – 877). UdaipurTimes has published this story for your readers, under the express authority of the original author.

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