Taniya Dutta

A snow leopard is completely camouflaged while waiting patiently to pounce on an Ibex in the Indian Himalayas.

The leopard’s prey – the Ibex with giant horns – is seen standing at ease but a closer look reveals the wild cat sitting quietly just metres away.

The endangered big cat was pictured by Nirali Mehta, 21, a student from Mumbai in India, while on an expedition to Ladakh-the highest plateau of the country in north, with three of her friends.

PIC FROM Nirali Mehta / Caters News

She said: “It was a breathtaking moment for me. We had traveled from the plains to the elevation of 3712 meter braving minus degrees to track the snow leopards which are extremely shy animals and are rarely seen.

“We were having tea early morning when a villager came running to us saying he spotted a snow leopard.

“We ran with our cameras and binoculars and hiked up to the one end of the mountain stretch. When we reached, we could only see an Ibex standing all alone.

“But soon my eyes caught this majestic beauty with an elongated tail lying callously just meters away from the goat. It had perfectly camouflaged against the mountain terrain.

“I could not believe my eyes. I had been on several tiger spotting expeditions before and failed but here I could see this beautiful, shy creature in front of my eyes. I was thrilled, not even once I felt scared of it. I quickly captured the animal in my camera lens.

“We stood there for nearly fifteen minutes admiring its beauty and how calm it was. The leopard then disappeared.”

But Mehta and her friends found a semi eaten body of the same Ibex the next morning showing the leopard came back.

Snow leopards are one of the rarest seen animals. The total population of these elusive cats is estimated at less than 2,500 adults worldwide.

They typically live at elevations of around 3,000- 5,000 meters in arid and semi-arid shrubland and grassland across Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Russia and Tajikistan.