Unseen Passage: Panther

To ensure its perpetuity, the ground is well held by the panther both in space and in time. It enjoys a much wider distribution over the globe than its bigger cousins and procreates sufficiently profusely to ensure its continuity for all time to come.

There seems to be no particular breeding season of the panther, although its sawing and caterwauling is more frequently heard during winter and summer. The gestation period is about ninety to hundred days (Whipsnade, ninety-two days). The litter normally consists of four cubs, rarely five. Of these, generally two survive and not more than one reaches maturity. I have never come across more than two cubs at the heels of the mother. Likewise, graziers in the forest have generally found only two cubs hidden away among rocks, hollows of trees, and other impossible places.

Panther cubs are generally in evidence in March. They are bom blind. This is a provision of Nature against their drifting away from the place of safety in which they are lodged by their mother, and exposing themselves to the danger of their being devoured by hyenas, jackals, and other predators. They generally open their eyes in about three to four weeks.

The mother alone rears its cubs in seclusion. It keeps them out of the reach of the impulsive and impatient male. As a matter of fact the mother separates from the male soon after mating and forgets all about their tumultuous union. The story that the male often looks in to find out how the mother is progressing with her cubs has no foundation except in what we wish it should do at least.

The mother carries its cubs about by holding them by the scruff of their necks, in its mouth. It trains them to stalk, and teaches them how to deliver the bite of death to the prey. The cubs learn to treat all and sundry with suspicion at their mother’s heels. Instinctively the cubs seek seclusion, keep to cover and protect their flanks by walking along the edge of the forest.

I have never had an opportunity to watch a mother panther train its cubs. But in Pilibhit forests, I once saw a tigress giving some lessons to its little ones. I was its kill at Mala. As the sunset, the tigress materialized in the twilight behind my machan. For about an hour, it scanned and surveyed the entire area looking and listening with the gravest concern. It even went to the road where my elephant was awaiting my signal. The mahout spotted it from a distance and drove the elephant away.

When darkness descended upon the scene and all was well and safe the tigress called its cubs by emitting a low haa-oon. The cubs, two in number and bigger than a full-grown cat, soon responded. They came trotting up to their mother and hurried straight to the kill in indecent haste. The mother spitted at them so furiously that they doubled back its heels immediately. Thereafter, the mother and its cubs sat under cover about 50 feet (15 m) away from the kill to watch, wait, look, and listen. After about half an hour’s patience and fidgetless vigil the mother seemed to say ‘paid for’. At this signal, the cubs cautiously advanced, covering their flanks, towards the kill. No longer did they make a beeline for it, as they had done before.

The mother sat watching its cubs eat, and mounted guard on them. She did not partake of the meal.

Q. On the basis of your understanding of the passage complete the statements given below with the help of options that follow:

  1. To protect its cubs, the mother panther hides them:
    1. among rocks
    2. in the branches of the trees
    3. behind the tree trunks
    4. at its heels
  2. The male panther:
    1. is protective of its cubs
    2. trains its cubs
    3. watches the progress of the mother
    4. is impulsive and impatient

Answer

  • among rocks
  • is impulsive and impatient

Q. Answer the following questions briefly:

  1. How many cubs does the mother panther rarely deliver?
  2. What may happen if the panther cubs are not born blind?
  3. Why did the mahaut drive his elephant away?
  4. Why did the tigress spit at its cubs?
  5. From the narrator’s observation, what do we learn about the nature of the tigress?
  6. Why does the panther not face the risk of extinction?
  7. Find words from the passage which mean the same as each of the following:
    1. moving aimlessly (para 3)
    2. came down/fell (para 7)

Answer

  1. The mother panther delivers litter of four cubs, rarely five.
  2. If the panther cubs are not blind they drift away from the place of safety in which they are lodged by their mother.
  3. The mahaut drove away his elephant to protect it from the tigress by avoiding to disturb it.
  4. The mother tigress spitted at its cubs to call them back to its heels and watch the prey carefully, instead of running towards it in haste.
  5. The tigress is very protective about her cubs. She rears them alone without the help of the male. She trains them to hunt and guards them while they eat.
  6. The panther does not face the risk of extinction because it procreates sufficiently and profusely to ensure its continuity for all time to come.
  7. Words are:
    1. drifting
    2. descended

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