Leopard_Giri

In a show of extraordinary nimbleness, a leopardess leaps over her mate on a narrow tree-branch to reach the other side. Photographer Giri Cavale captured this rare and unique visual in the jungles of the Kabini area of Nagarahole National Park, when he found a courting pair on safari at the height of the monsoon. That leopards are highly arboreal is well known, but this stunning photograph shows just how much at home they are in trees.

“Curiously,” says Giri, “the sure-footed duo would jump onto another tree to copulate, and get back to this branch for rest.” When the leopardess returned this time to find her way blocked by the male, Giri knew she had nowhere else to go. “Since there was no comfortable place behind the male for the leopardess to sit, I surmised that she’d jump across him, so I pre-focused and waited,” reveals Giri. Soon, she leaped.  And so did this image, to second place in the 2013 edition of the Sanctuary Asia Wildlife Photography Awards, and very likely to your permanent memory.

And that is why it’s an iconic image of this iconic cat.