A leopardess walks soundlessly through the tall grass, taking care not to trample on dry twigs that would alert others to her presence. The four cubs that stumble behind her are not quite as graceful and their soft meows and unguarded demeanors make them easy prey. However, she is not worried because as long as she is with them, she can always teach them the ways of the wild until they are able to carry themselves with the same powerful grace as she does. She leaves her cubs in the sugarcane field as she goes out on a prowl for food. At the moment, the cubs are still too young to join her on hunts so the responsibility of feeding the four mouths falls upon the adult leopard.
Unfortunately for the young cubs, the harvest season was ongoing, which meant that their tall cover of sugarcane stalks was stripped to the ground at daybreak. The silver lining in this whole incident remains the vigilant nature of the farmers at Kabadwadi Village in Maharashtra as they often come across young leopard cubs nestled amidst their sugarcane fields. Aware of the protocol and ready to take swift action, the farmers quickly alerted the Junnar Forest Department who called in the Wildlife SOS team at Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre (MLRC).
Wildlife SOS veterinary officer, Dr. Nikhil Bangar arrived at the scene with his team of skilled rescuers and all the appropriate gear required during leopard rescues. Following the standard protocol, the veterinary officer conducted a quick on-site examination of the leopard cubs to check for any injuries or abnormalities. The litter comprised of two female and two male cubs, who were approximately two months old. Once the cubs were deemed fit to travel, they were taken to MLRC where they underwent a more detailed medical examination. The conclusion was that the cubs did not require any medical treatment and were fit to be reunited with their mother.
Since reunions need to be done as swiftly as possible, the team rehydrated the cubs and carefully placed them in a safe box at the same location where they were found. They set up camera traps nearby and ensured that the locals of the area stayed away from the field for the night so that the mother didn’t feel threatened by human presence. It is imperative to make the environment safe for the mother to return to so that she can take her cubs away.
The rescue team had set up camera traps around the area to confirm the reunion which would have otherwise been impossible to confirm under the cover of the night. Come morning, the team made their way towards the boxes strewn across the ground with barely contained excitement. It seemed like the mother leopard had understood the cue and taken her cubs from the boxes! The camera footage confirmed that she had tipped over the boxes and carried her cubs away to a safe spot by the scruff of their neck.
The team breathed a collective sigh of relief upon conducting another successful reunion. The smooth sailing of this reunion proves the difference it makes when local communities are aware of the wildlife in their surroundings. The vigilant villagers at Kabadwadi knew that the right course of action to take was to swiftly inform the authorities about the presence of the leopard cubs. This allowed the Forest Department and Wildlife SOS to complete the reunion successfully.
You can help to ensure the safety of leopards in India by contributing to Wildlife SOS’ leopard conservation efforts and supporting us in providing medical attention to leopards and holding awareness workshops!