The dainty morsel

A retired trainer of big cats, Leuzinger's Tigerranch....", is looking for a companion for his female Chinese leopard, but my detailed email to him remains unanswered. Urs Breitenmoser recommends that I contact his acquaintance at the Sharjah Zoo, but his response is also negative: "Unfortunately, we in Sharjah cannot help you as we are breeding Arabian leopards only and would not want to take the risk that at some stage a cross breeding might take place. … It seems to me that your main problem is the fact that Bhagya does not belong to an endangered leopard subspecies. Maybe the general consensus of the world is that money and effort should be saved for the really endangered animals."

Gerard encourages me not to give up and refers me to Jonathan Kraft, Founder and Director of Keepers of the Wild, a sanctuary for big cats not far from Las Vegas. Jonathan writes: “Yes, we are interested in having Bhagya join our "animal family". I am, at this time, looking into it from this side and talking to an attorney that specializes in CITES in Washington D.C. If the Nepali Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation is willing to help and the process is possible, then I would definitely consider it.”

Adam Barlow, a young tiger researcher working for the International Trust for Nature Conservation (ITNC), comes to visit Bhagya. "How will Bhagya possibly react if I enter the enclosure?" he asks me. "I cannot guarantee that he will not attack you. He is not used to strangers coming so close to him." Adam is reluctant, but takes heart and follows me inside.
Bhagya on his machan Bhagya is lying in a corner and stares at Adam, who does not move. Then he gets up, approaches Adam, sniffs at his bare legs and his shorts, and discovers the hat peering out of his pants' pocket. He strolls around in the enclosure and jumps on his machan, never taking his eyes off Adam. Adam relaxes a little and sits down on the swing.

Suddenly Bhagya leaps down the machan, strolls towards Adam from behind, snitches the hat out of his shorts' pocket and races back up the machan again. When I attempt to take away his prey, he growls at me, claws the hat firmly between his paws and starts to gnaw at it. "I think you can forget about your hat, Adam." "Oh well, this doesn't matter, though ... I will indeed miss it."

However, this is not the end of the hat, but Bhagya is not easily outsmarted to abandon it. When I finally return it to Adam, he is quite proud of the remains.

At the age of 8 months Bhagya weighs 20 kg. He receives almost 1 kg of meat per day, which I divide up into two meals. Nevertheless his appetite is so enormous that he dives on to his food as if he were famished, often spilling the contents of his bowl. Look at him licking his mouth !

Catherine Pommier sends some contact addresses in France and offers to translate and forward my request for assistance in finding Bhagya a new home. From Madame Delord, President of the "Association nationale des parcs et jardins zoologiques privés"she learns: "… that leopard is classified as a "species 1", which means that it is totally forbidden to import it into France. But there are exceptions."
Despite all disappointment and the uncertainty of Bhagya's fate we have a lot of fun together. In mid of November we shoot a small film with the title The Dainty Morsel, which is shown here in a shortened version. Naturally, Bhagya is the hero; Puran and Andreas operate the camera.

But much to our regret the manufacturer of dainty morsels has refused to sponsor Bhagya.

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