Nothing could be a more fitting name for our magnificent cat than “Jaya”, a Sanskrit word that means “victor”. This young leopard’s journey from being a helpless cub to becoming a confident adult is truly inspiring, and Jaya has grown to become the apple of her caregivers’ eyes at the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre (MLRC).
Let’s take a trip down memory lane with Jaya’s story!
Our first encounter with Jaya happened 15 years ago in the sugarcane fields of Rahuri in Maharashtra. Jaya was just a tiny cub then, found to be all alone. Rising encroachment of sugarcane fields into forested areas forced mother leopards to resort to alternative forms of foliage to protect their young. The giant grass of sugarcane crops serve the purpose to shelter cubs when the mother heads out in search of prey.
While harvesting the crop, farmers often stumble upon cubs nestled amongst the stocks, with no sign of an adult leopard nearby. Upon finding this cub within the field, all efforts were made by our team to locate her mother as soon as possible. At her tender age, Jaya would not have been able to survive alone in the wild, since she was entirely dependent on her mother for food and protection. Leopard cubs rely on their mothers till they reach the age of two, and during this time, they are taught the skills to hunt and survive in the wild. Hence, our first course of action was to reunite this offspring with her mother.
However, despite our best efforts, the mother leopard did not arrive to pick Jaya up. In such a scenario, there were two options in front of us: we could either leave the orphaned cub where she was found, with chances of her survival looking bleak, or we could bring her to an environment that ensures her long-term care.
We picked the latter, and it could not have worked out better! When Jaya arrived at MLRC, we couldn’t help but notice how playful and active she was. Today, she continues to reflect these traits as a 15-year-old adult. Young Jaya was introduced to Jiya, another leopard who was rescued as a cub, and the two formed a heartwarming bond.
We have seen Jaya’s acrobatic skills, and she is marvellously dexterous! Unlike what most can associate with a big cat, Jaya displayed wholehearted affection for her closest companion Jiya, and the two grew up together to become cheerful and healthy leopards. Jaya’s fondness for Jiya also included a sense of protection, as the former played a more maternal role in the relationship.
Jaya would groom Jiya by constantly licking her face. At times, Jaya would invite Jiya to her feeding den to share her food with her. One could also hear Jaya’s soft, soothing sounds then. Jiya willingly responded to Jaya’s care by following her around like a shadow.
Over time, the pair became fun-loving pranksters. Leopards are mostly nocturnal in their natural habitat, but while growing up, Jaya and Jiya were most active during the early hours of morning, prancing around their field together!
One hilarious incident that has remained in many minds was when one morning, Jaya’s caregiver arrived at the duo’s enclosure only to find that the bamboo installed there had been successfully uprooted by the sprightly adolescents. Another time, the Jaya and Jiya were found “camping” underneath the remains of a climbing platform after it was “attacked” and defeated by the two.
As time went on, an innate tendency of leopards to go solo kicked in, and Jaya and Jiya were moved to their own, different enclosures. Jaya is a gorgeous feline and roams around her lush green enclosure with an energy no less than what she used to have as a cub.
Being an expert climber, Jaya has exhibited her preference to rest in high places. She elegantly makes her way up to tall trees and even likes to climb on the wooden platform installed at a height.
In 2022, we at Wildlife SOS celebrated the 14th year of Jaya’s rescue. The caregivers decorated Jaya’s field with a variety of goodies on her enrichments, from ice popsicles over their wooden platforms to pumpkins hung from trees.
Creating playful enrichments for our leopards serve as a humble effort to help our leopards remain as physically and mentally active as they would in the wilderness. Our aim is to provide the rescued leopards an environment that closely resembles their natural habitat.
As we see Jaya looking at us from the top of her platform, she dons the majestic persona of a queen who is surveying all her subjects. Jaya truly is a “victor”, and we are glad to shower her with the attention and care she deserves.
To sustain the lives of majestic felines like Jaya, we encourage you to consider sponsoring one of our rescued leopards.