This photograph by Saurabh Desai showcases a male snow leopard hiding in plain sight. See it? We’ll give you a minute. If you’re having trouble spotting the camouflaged creature, here’s a hint: the big cat is not white, but brown.
Desai snapped this incredible animal photography, titled Art of Camouflage, in the early months of 2019. He began by trekking to the Spiti Valley located high in the Himalayas in North India with a single goal in mind. “I was on my search of the world’s most illusive cat,” he tells My Modern Met, “which is also known as ‘Grey Ghost’ in the popular local language.”
Desai ultimately made his way to the valley and near the high-altitude Kibber village. He was about five miles from the locale when he spotted the brown snow leopard, which is also called Shan in the local Ladakhi language. It turns out that the cat saw him, too. “The picture depicts the Snow Leopard trying to get off the cliff,” he recalls, “but observing our presence, it decided to wait until it got really dark and it stayed there on the edge.”
It is a testament to Desai’s patience and perseverance that he captured this image. “I spent almost 3 years in search of this amazing cat,” he admits, “and when I found it up and close to me, I was speechless.” The conditions for snapping this photo were anything but ideal. At an altitude of 17,000 feet, temperatures were -30°C and oxygen levels were at less than 50% than usual. Desai had to endure a lot to be able to capture this now-viral shot.
The snow leopard is of special significance to Desai. He is currently compiling a book about the Ladakh and Spiti valleys of Himalayas, and the animal is an important part of the peaks. “I wanted this animal to be captured the way people have described it, they say that often they don’t see the ‘Shan’ but ‘Shan’ always sees them,” he explains. “I was very [keen] to portray this animal in its own environment, perfectly camouflaged, which is an important skill that helps it in hunting.”