As cases of the Coronavirus pandemic grip the nation with increasing intensity, Maharashtra constitutes for 1/3rd of the cases, hence severely overburdening the frontline warriors that work day-in and day-out to save the lives of people infected. In one such case, the frontliners of the Forest Department, along with the team at the Wildlife SOS Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre, saved the life of a drowning leopard from a 45-feet deep well in a village located near Junnar, Pune.
A nightly foraging routine took an unexpected turn, for the worst, when an adult male leopard fell into a well that was left uncovered in Otur village near Junnar in Maharashtra. Desperately trying to climb out of the deep well and splashing around in distress, the fate of the leopard was dwindling between deep waters and the inability to climb out. His distressed cries caught the attention of a group of sugarcane farmers that were around the well, and they immediately reached out to the Maharashtra Forest Department and the Wildlife SOS Rescue team to inform them about the serious situation at-hand.
Sugarcane farmers in Maharashtra, around the Junnar district, are regular attendees of the educational outreach efforts conducted by Wildlife SOS and Forest Department to encourage co-existence between leopards and villagers. It is owing to the villagers’ quick response to the situation and timely intervention of the rescue teams that the life of the leopard could be saved.
Assessing the sufficient amount of stress that the leopard must have undergone in his ordeal to escape the well, it was very important that the mounting crowd be immediately dispersed. A makeshift platform was lowered into the well and stabilised with the help of rescuers and helpful villagers, this platform would allow the leopard to climb out of the drowning water for temporary relief. Once the leopard had safely climbed onto the platform, a trap cage was lowered in and the leopard sensing that this was his only chance out, carefully entered the cage. The trap cage was gradually lifted out of the well, and this near-death situation with the leopard was averted.
Fortunately, the leopard, identified as a male leopard of about 7-8 years of age, was in perfect health condition despite the serious fall, as examined by our Wildlife Veterinary Officer, Dr. Nikhil Bangar. After being in temporary medical observation, the leopard was deemed fit to be released in the wild again!
Such rescue operations, indeed, require a lot of patience and courage considering the safety of the leopard in distress as well as the safety of the villagers and the rescue team. By saving the life of this leopard, the inevitable question comes into play – will the rapid and unplanned urbanisation ever slow down to strike a perfect balance between nature and development or will India’s wildlife continue to suffer the consequences of neglect?
Wildlife SOS is working dedicatedly towards reaching out to concerned authorities to fence the areas around open wells in order to avert serious incidents like this when wild animals find themselves battling for life. You can play an important role by signing the petition here!