Her very first memory was of being surrounded by the warmth and safety of her mother. The leopard cub’s mother would pick her up by the scruff of her neck and scout for different locations, where intruders wouldn’t harm them. The two had travelled quite a bit until they chanced upon a huge field with tall stalks of sugarcane that could provide cover and safety. The mother placed her cub amidst it all, nursing her till sundown. Then she nudged her young cub to let her know that she was heading out on a hunt, and would return in a few hours, once she had nourished herself. The cub’s eyelids drooped and she was lulled to sleep; belly full and heart content. But when she woke up, stalks that sheltered her had been cut, and a group of humans with sickles in their hands were peering down at her. And mother leopard was missing!
Just 14 days out of the womb, the cub found herself in a conflict with humans over space and resources. The field where she was safely kept was being slashed at an alarming rate. She knew how her mother had to venture from one place to another daily to find shelter for her cub. The cub mewled in the hopes that her mother’s sharp ears would pick up her soft cries but the chatter of the villagers drowned her out. The puzzled humans seemed to be making hurried phone calls while scratching their heads in confusion.
Soon, a group of uniformed officials arrived and they cleared out the people from her surroundings. They seemed to be the guardians of the forest in this area, as they were familiar with the landscape and the people. They began scouting the area as they waited for another team. A man wearing gloves arrived with a few others, and gingerly picked up the cub, listening to her heartbeat with a device. He carefully examined her, telling the others that she was in good health.
The night fell; it got quieter and darker. The cub cried louder in the hope that her mother would be able to hear her. There was also the added advantage of the drops of her urine that the humans had lined around her box. It smelled of her, so her mother would surely follow the scent!
Her guess was right! At midnight, her mother finally arrived at the location. She tipped the box over and picked up her cub, in the same way she always did, and took her back into the forest.
The night fell; it got quieter and darker. The cub cried louder in the hopes that her mother would be able to hear her. There was also the added advantage of the drops of urine that the humans had lined around her box. It smelled of her, so her mother would surely follow the scent! Her guess was right! At midnight, her mother finally arrived at the location. She tipped the box over and picked up her cub, in the same way she always did, and took her back into the forest.
Though the cub was back with her mother now, she was now aware of the perils she could face in the future. She and her mother would have to face many challenges, such as fights over declining resources, the danger of open wells, and deadly poaching traps. All she could hope for was that the humans would co-operate and make a unified effort towards saving the forest, which is her home.
To know more about the dangers faced by leopards in India, read our articles on The Risk of Open Wells to Leopards and Jaw Traps and Snares: The Terrible Threat To India’s Wildlife.