The physiological stress response, with a racing heart, sweaty palms, a lump in the throat, tense muscles ready for flight or fight, sharp acute focus, relieving of digestive function, and wider pupils often occur in the face of fear. These are mostly psychological today. However, residents in some cities like Mumbai could be faced with a leopard as urban growth encroaches on rural areas. This month, Nepal had that experience.
I had an experience facing a lion that was lapping water in the wild and I was alone in a hide. He heard me move and looked over. It was as if, even in the darkness, he could see through me. As he walked towards me, despite the fact that I was in a hide, my body reacted immediately. Sweat, heartbeat, fast breathing. As the lion got closer, I became more scared and somewhat frozen. He would never be able to fit in through the open window to get at me, and yet my body did not even process that logic. I slid down the wall so he couldn't see my eyes. He stayed put for a few moments, and then slowly turned to walk away. Again, as I stood up, there was a noise from my end. At that point, the lion squatted and defaecated. He was also stressed. I could have been a hunter with a gun!
That was one of the most humbling experiences. We share at least our stress response with the king of the jungle. Unfortunately I don't have a photo or video of that incident, but it is etched in my mind. Below is a photo from nepal's leopard instead.
(courtesy of BBC)