Gliding through sugarcane fields in a seamless stride, looking for food, leopards are on a perpetual prowl to survive in a rapidly urbanising world that takes up more and more of the forest cover that they call home. This, inevitably means that they venture out to human habitations to prey on domestic cattle which brings them to a direct situation of conflict and interaction with humans. On the days when they are not in a direct situation of conflict, they have to bear the brunt of the callousness that human beings leave behind.
In one such unfortunate act of callousness, the residents of a village in Junnar district, in Pune, heard distressed cries coming from an open well. When they hurriedly reached the spot to understand where the cries were coming from, they spotted a leopard, confused and huddled in the corner of a 30-feet deep well! A raised tempo of confused voices reacting to the feline so close to human habitation led to one of the informed villagers reaching out to the Forest Department, who in turn, alerted the Wildlife SOS Rescue Team.
Meanwhile, the residents of the village had received an earlier training workshop by Wildlife SOS on human-leopard conflict mitigation and were prepared in situations where they had to deal with direct interaction with them. Hence, they systematically cordoned off the area and did not encourage more crowds to form, understanding the safety of the animal as well as the villagers. While this was happening, the leopard looked extremely stressed and paced around the well, looking starved and dehydrated.
In nail-biting operations like such, it is of utmost importance that the villagers cooperate and do not add to the existing chaos and panic that prevails, and the villagers of Nimgaon Sawa proved to be no less than saviours by keeping the mounting crowds at bay, as well as helping our rescuers in this extremely tough rescue. As the cage was lowered for the female leopard to climb in, she was baffled at the sight of the large metal chunk and kept going under it! Time and again that she went underneath the cage, the heavy cage had to be lifted a few feet off the ground soo that it does not hurt her or add to her stress. After a good amount of time, the cage was allowed to be placed on the ground and the leopard was cowered in the corner, which meant that she was getting more exhausted and had to be taken out from this well for a quick medical examination before her situation gets worse.
Carefully examining, she took firm, but unsure, steps inside the cage which was shut once she was inside and the cage was lifted which concluded an ordeal of confusion and starvation for this young leopard.
After a detailed medical examination, the female leopard was around 1.5 years old and had, fortunately, not sustained any injuries from the fall. She was released back to the wild in a safe habitat, away from human habitation, so that an unfortunate incident like this one could be avoided.
Wildlife SOS has been at the forefront in rescuing leopards from open and uncovered wells, both dry and wet, after which many leopards have been rendered grievously injured and many could not make it, due to the trauma suffered. Open wells have been a constant source of threat, and the rescue of this young female leopard only attests to that unfortunate fact. By conducting awareness workshops and human-animal conflict mitigation sessions, the residents of villages can be made more proactive in handling these situations as well as becoming responsible citizens in order to encourage co-existence between wild animals and humans, as well as setting an example for others to follow.
Watch the nail-biting operation unfold here!