Dr. Ajay, the Leopard Vet, speaks about his favourite leopards and more

August 29, 2012 | By wildlife@dmin

Wildlife SOS, currently runs a facility called the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Center.   This center, located a short drive from Mumbai, focuses on providing medical care to orphaned and injured leopards.  Some of the leopards live their lives at the facility because they can’t be returned to the wild. Other leopards come in for a short duration for medical treatment and are held until they can be returned to a safe environment.  Dr. Ajay, is the fulltime veterinarian for this facility run by Wildlife SOS.  Recently, we had a chance to catch up with him to ask him about his experiences as the lead vet

How many leopards do you look after?  At the center I take care of 26 leopards.  However, since the time that I was hired in 2009, I have been involved with rescuing, reuniting and treating more than 50 leopards.

What is your typical day like at the center?  Typically my day starts at 7 AM and ends at 8 PM.   I usually put in a 12 to 13 hour day.  During that time I do everything from cleaning and feeding to enclosure maintenance and animal enrichment.

What do the leopards like to do?   We provide a lot of enrichment for the leopards.  They need this for stimulation.  They would get very bored without it.  Typically, they are most active just before their meals.

What got you interested in being a vet that works with leopards?  It was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse.  I have always been fascinated with leopards and wanted to learn more about them.  The more I am around them and have a chance to study their behavior and watch their mannerisms, the more I understand them.   I have found that they are very much like human beings.

Which leopards at the facility are special to you?  Bhima and Shankar are two very active males that are my stress busters.  When I feel tense, if I go to where Bhima and Shankar are, those boys will almost always make me laugh.  They have some of the funniest expressions you will ever see on a leopard.  They will always come show me their noses.

Have you ever been hurt working with leopards? Touchwood… NO, not once.  I have gotten good at reading their behavior and this has helped me with making quicker judgments.  I have to always be alert when working with the leopards and be fully in the moment.  Let’s hope I don’t jinx it.

What do you do when you need to examine a leopard? If the leopard is in a very serious condition it is always better to tranquilize the leopard and examine it thoroughly.  If it is minor injuries, we use a squeeze cage, dress the wound and release the leopard.

Do you get any animals in other then leopards?  Yes!!  We have a lot of birds and hyenas that have come from time to time to be treated for injuries.  We have a few Indian pea fowls now and we just released a Black Ibis into the wild.

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