While a surprise guest would usually leave us excited for their company, so was not the case when a four-year-old leopard paid a late-night visit to a house in Parner, Maharashtra. The leopard was led to the house after having followed their pet dog and had stumbled upon the family right in the middle of dinner.
Luckily, the family raised an alarm before any mishaps occurred, and they were all able to safely run out of the house while locking the leopard indoors. On recovering from the initial shock of having a live wild cat in their living room, the family called the forest department, who immediately alerted the Wildlife SOS team at the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre.
In the meantime, their four-legged guest made himself right at home and eventually found himself a comfortable spot atop a cupboard! A team of three Wildlife SOS rescuers and a team of forest officers arrived at the village, to find a crowd of curious onlookers gathered around the house to meet this new guest. Ensuring the safety of the villagers as well as the leopard, a large safety net was put in place and effective measures of crowd control were deployed by the forest officers. The team was greeted with as many as 700 people, which is why the rescue became a tad bit challenging, but with persistent efforts by the Forest Department, it was able to go forth smoothly. Since the villagers were sensitised in the matters of man-leopard conflicts, their constant cooperation helped the rescue to be conducted smoothly.
A bedroom window was pulled open so the team could lock down the animal’s location and carefully assess the situation. Wildlife SOS senior veterinarian Dr. Ajay Deskhmukh then used a tranquilizing gun to sedate the leopard. One straight shot, and a few minutes later, the leopard was sedated and calm, which meant the next phase of the operation was to begin and that was to escort the large cat out. With the crowds mounting to catch a glimpse of the leopard leaving the house premises, it was carefully loaded in the ambulance and taken to the Ahmed Nagar nursery for a preliminary health examination. The leopard was a male, estimated to be about four years old, and has since been released back into the wild.
While the leopard is now back to his natural habitat, it is very important to understand that there has been a marked increase in the human-leopard conflict in the recent past, which brings to light the depleting forest cover that is driving the leopards out of their habitat and into the human habitations. Parner, particularly, is prone to such conflicts as leopards tend to wander into villages in search of easy prey such as the poultry and livestock. As sensitivity on such issues is being increased, the occupants of the area must take an important stand alerting the Forest Department, only to finally reach our rescue team to take the necessary steps and ensure the proper safety of both the villagers and the leopard.
Wildlife SOS has been leading the way in ensuring that all proper measures are put in place to control the increasing incidents of man-leopard conflicts. Since Maharashtra records a high number of these cases, people must be sensitised in such a way that they become stakeholders as well as conservationists in playing an important role in reducing these conflicts. Workshops are conducted in various districts and villages in Maharashtra to appoint village ambassadors and representatives who are to raise alerts if a leopard is sighted. Villagers are well-aware of the steps to be taken if they are to encounter a leopard or a leopard cub or an injured leopard in need of urgent medical attention.
Such initiatives instill the feeling of responsibility in the people who are then at the forefront of informing the Forest Department for any unusual activity or any leopard in distress. This makes the work of Wildlife SOS easy as when we reach the place of incident, there is no panic and the leopard would be contained in such a place that it is easy for us to conduct the rescue operation without compromising the safety of people or the animal.