A leopard holding facility that was built in 2002 by the forest department to house leopards in Maharashtra only provided cells for solitary confinement and did not provide for large outside enclosures that were adequate to keep the leopards happy and healthy. Out of 26 leopards housed at the center, only eight leopards had access to an external space to exercise. So, in 2007, Wildlife SOS was invited to partner with the government to improve and expand the Leopard Rescue Centre while addressing the needs of the leopards.
Today, the Manekdoh Leopard Rescue Centre run by Wildlife SOS in collaboration with the Maharashtra Forest Department houses 31 leopards and provides a transit home for leopards injured by villagers or trapped in conflict situations. These man-animal conflict scenarios with leopards are complex ones as conflict is caused by human encroachment upon wild leopards’ natural habitat. They struggle to find a foothold in the vanishing forest and are pushed to take cover in sugarcane farms and to rely on village livestock to survive. This has caused indiscriminate trapping and killing of leopards perceived to be a threat. The centre also houses several orphaned leopard cubs who cannot be released back into the wild as they are severely imprinted. Wildlife SOS manages the centre in collaboration with Maharashtra Forest Division with support from Humane Society International (HSI), Australia, Terra-et Faune and Wildlife SOS, USA.
We continue to conduct regular training programs detailing “capacity building” for Forest Department staff and for vets in outlining the use of tranquilizing gear. We also provide education to local farming communities thereby increasing their awareness and tolerance for coexistence with these beautiful cats.