As we celebrate World Leopard Day on the 3rd of May, we would love to introduce all our supporters to Simba – the newest addition to the Wildlife SOS family. In 2021, a tiny leopard cub was found nestled amidst tall stalks of sugarcane in the Kolwade Village located in the Sangamner ranges of Maharashtra. The young feline had been wandering within sugarcane fields, crying out for his mother. Dehydrated and exhausted, lost and traumatized, the cub was at last spotted by a child from the village. Soon, word of this discovery had spread all around.
Worried about the safety of the cub, Kolwade villagers immediately informed the forest authorities. Soon and sure enough, the Forest Department and the Wildlife SOS team operating out of Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre were at the site!
The Wildlife SOS veterinary officer examined the cub and reported that it was a two-month-old male. The cub seemed to be suffering from an injury on his tail, presumed to have been caused by a pack of feral dogs. Lucky to have escaped from the attack, the cub now needed to be reunited with its mother to avoid further dangers. There was no telling how long he would survive in the wild without his mother to guard him. The cub was quickly patched up by the veterinarian and transferred into a safe box to be kept at the location where he was found.
As a standard protocol for reunions, camera traps were set up near the location where the cub was placed for his mother to find him. The team dispersed to ensure a smooth reunion. The next morning, the team slowly approached the spot, only to find that the cub was still in the box! Worried, the group looked through the camera footage: There was no sign of the mother being in the area. However, there was still a chance that the mother would come looking for the cub. Successful reunions could take 2 or 3 attempts, and so, the team geared up to put in all the necessary effort to ensure that this cub got a chance to be free, and live in the wild!
Unfortunately, despite the team’s multiple attempts, the mother of the cub never arrived. This cub was all alone. We could only speculate as to why the mother did not come back for her cub, given the number of threats leopards face: snare traps, poachers and open wells, among many others.
The young cub couldn’t be left to survive alone in the wild; he had already been attacked and injured by feral dogs. For the first two years of their lives, young cubs depend on their mothers to teach them skills on how to survive the wild. They are under her constant supervision and protection. Without his mother, the survival of this young cub was now at risk. A call, a difficult one at that, had to be taken.
With his survival placed at utmost priority, Wildlife SOS took this leopard cub under lifelong care at Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre, where he was hand-raised by our care staff. Hand-rearing of wild animals comes as a last resort for any conservation organisation, as it is unnatural for a wild animal to interact with humans. However, given the dearth of alternatives, this case was an exception.
This young cub was named “Simba”, after the lovable character from the animated film, The Lion King (1994). Simba’s addition to the Wildlife SOS family has been a bittersweet necessity, much like the other rescued leopards we foster. While we are happy that we are able to provide a home for abandoned, orphaned and disabled leopards, it saddens us to know of the events that brought them to us in the first place.
A quote by Rafiqi from The Lion King is befitting here – “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.”
The circumstances that brought Simba to our centre are undeniably heartbreaking, but given the harsh realities wildlife is facing, we can amplify our efforts to conserve leopards in India. We do not know what happened to Simba’s mother, but to ensure that leopards do not face the same consequences as Simba’s, we can campaign for better protection of leopards by creating awareness.
To this effect, Wildlife SOS is working on the Open Wells Conservation Project to make sure that Maharashtra is safer for leopards that inhabit surrounding areas. Wildlife SOS has already rescued more than 40 leopards from drowning in open wells and ensured more than 8 successful leopard cub reunions by creating awareness among the locals on how to react quickly and correctly to leopard sightings. We are working to secure a safer future for leopards so that none of them lose their chance at life in the wild.
Please consider making a donation to help us cover one well at a time, and support our ongoing work to protect India’s precious wildlife.
Like the protagonist of The Lion King, our young cub Simba lost his chance of growing up with his family. You can by supporting his care and upkeep! Spread the word on our conservation efforts so that all leopards get to live a “Hakuna Matata” life in the wild!