The time of harvest is around the corner, and so are leopard cubs which is why many a time, the sugarcane harvest season in Maharashtra finds more than just the crop, it also finds little cubs!
In a recent incident, three leopard cubs that were barely a month old were rescued from a sugarcane field in a Nagargaon village, located in Shirur range. The cubs were barely 3 weeks old, the size of a forearm, and looked confused and lost. Without wasting further time, the farmers were quick to alert the Forest Department upon realising that these cubs need immediate attention. Once the Forest Department alerted Wildlife SOS at the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre, both teams were swift in response and sprang into action understanding the sensitivity of the situation and the vulnerabilities that the cubs were surrounded with.
Identified as one male and two females, the cubs were examined by our senior veterinarian Dr. Ajay Deshmukh, who confirmed that they were unharmed and healthy. Understanding that they are too small to survive without their mother’s support, these cubs needed to be reunited to their mother’s safety as soon as possible. Leopard cubs this young are prone to falling prey to other animals, and weather vulnerabilities or even an unexpected man-animal conflict.
After their health examination, the cubs were kept in a safe box, close to the location that they were initially found by the farmers. As the team stood close-by and hidden expecting a long time before the leopard mother would find her cubs, the waiting time was cut-short as within 15 minutes of the cubs being placed, the leopard mother was spotted.
She wasted no time in identifying her cubs and carefully approaching the safe box, gently knocking it down with her paws. The cubs also excited to see their mother, started jumping inside the box! She carefully picked the little cubs up, one-by-one by the scruff of their tiny necks, and moved them to a safer location, away from the sugarcane fields. With the family being reunited, it was a joyful moment to behold as a worried mother looking for her children, fearing the worst but finding them in safe hands, was quick to take them away and ensure that they are fine.
Sugarcane fields act as a haven for birthing leopard mothers, due to the dense and thick stalks that allow them to hide their cubs. The villagers being alert and active, knowing exactly what to do in such instances, play an important role in making such reuniting efforts successful as they are cooperative and do not stir unnecessary panic. This has been the swiftest reunion that Wildlife SOS rescue team has witnessed, and shows how the harvest season requires the farmers to be even more careful when it comes to stumbling upon leopard cubs in the fields. With another family being reunited, it is commendable on the part of both for the Forest Department as well as the farmers who timely alerted the Wildlife SOS rescue team.