Wildlife SOS, in collaboration with the Ahmednagar Forest Division, conducted a rescue equipment training workshop at the NGO’s Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre (MLRC) in Maharashtra. 35 forest officials attended the training in order to better understand the nuances of leopard rescues as part of the broader canvas of leopard conservation science.
In recent times, the Ahmednagar division has seen a rise in issues related to human-leopard conflict and other man-made factors such as modification of the landscape which have probable leopard habitats. Hence the Maharashtra Forest Department decided to give a practical exposure to their Rapid Response Unit, to address and tackle these issues. For this very purpose Wildlife SOS turned moderator for the basic training of the forest officials in the matter of leopard rescues.
The training happened under the aegis of Dr. Nikhil Bangar, Veterinary Officer and Dr. Mahendra Dhore, Assistant Veterinary Officer from the Wildlife SOS team, along with the assistance of Amit Bhise, Additional Conservator of Forests, Maharashtra Forest Department. The training was divided into two broad halves, the first of which focused on rescue situations and the latter on rescue equipment information and leopard tranquilisation.
After a brief orientation session, Dr. Nikhil explained to the trainee officers the various types of rescues, the kind of rescue situations that we have to face and the various treatments that are administered or carried out post any rescue of a leopard. In that session, the forest officials also saw a few leopard rescue videos which Wildlife SOS carried out in the past, one of which included safely extricating a leopard from a deep well.
Leopards falling into open wells has become a very recurring problem and the Maharashtra Forest Department, with assistance from Wildlife SOS, is working towards a panacea for this predicament. These kinds of situation can often snowball into unmanageable pandemonium and thus we have to be very careful when it comes to executing such rescue operations.
As the day progressed, the officers were made familiar with the menagerie of rescue equipment such as a snare pole, safety net, net gun, blowpipe, shield, anti-scratching jacket, to name a few. Conducting a leopard rescue operation requires a lot of preparation and carrying the correct equipment is a pivotal part of that.
The workshop concluded with a demonstration on safe and proper methods of using a tranquillising gun. We have faced innumerable scenarios where leopards venture into human-dominated landscapes and are equally scared of the unfamiliar human faces around them, away from their territory.
Leopards are shy, elusive animals who are often forced out of their habitats due to increasing encroachment and shrinking prey base. So these cases require deft ways to skillfully sedate a leopard.
To be able to share our knowhow on leopard rescues and the different rescue equipment, with the officials of the Ahmednagar Forest Division, is a matter of immense joy. We are always eager and open to hosting such similar training workshops in the future which can contribute towards capacity development of the frontline forest staff in any way possible.