At 9:00 am, the morning of 25th May, the veterinary staff and keepers at Wildlife SOS’ Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre (mlrc) were starting surveillance rounds of the facility and feeding the rescued animals in their care, when a frantic call disrupted their daily routine.
The small farming village of Kothapur had woken up to a plaintive yowling. Following the sounds led the villagers to a well near the village. Trapped on a small rocky outcrop, perched precariously close to the water’s edge, was a young male leopard. The villagers were accustomed to seeing leopards on occasion, living as they do in close proximity to Maharashtra’s scrub jungles that serve as the leopard’s natural habitat. In situations like this, their first instinct is to call the team at the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre, which is what they did.
The call set in motion a complicated rescue mission. On reaching the scene, nearly 50 km from the centre, the three person team from Manikdoh- Dr. Ajay Deshmukh, Mr. Mahendra Dhore and Mr. Vaibhav Neharkar- found the situation trickier than they had anticipated.
Protocol in situations such as this one, dictates that a ladder-like contraption be lowered into the well, allowing the leopard to escape. Since this particular well happened to be in the middle of the village, this could result in a potentially dangerous situation. In addition, tranquilising the animal was out of the question. As soon as the tranquiliser set in, the leopard would lose consciousness and drop into the nearly forty feet of water below.
The team was faced with a challenge, even as the anxious cries of the trapped leopard grew more desperate, echoing off the steep, rocky walls of the well.
The plan devised by the team from MLRC was nothing sort of ingenious. With the help of a JCB crane, an upturned charpai (foldable bed) was lowered into the well, close enough to the distressed animal. With no other means of escape in sight, the desperate leopard stepped tentatively onto the makeshift platform. The plan well in motion, the team next lowered a trap cage into the well. Slowly submerging the platform encouraged the leopard to make a quick run for the cage, which shut as soon as he entered it.
Amidst cheers from the gathered crowd and sighs of relief from the team, the now safe caged leopard was carefully hoisted out of the well that had trapped him for nearly six hours. A preliminary examination by our veterinarian revealed that the leopard was unhurt by his ordeal and was found to be otherwise healthy and fit for release after observation.
Thus our exhausted but relieved team found themselves making their way back to the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre with a new temporary resident loaded onto their vehicle. The center’s senior veterinarian, Dr. Ajay Deshmukh, assures us that the leopard will soon be released into its natural habitat, having fully recovered from its grueling adventure.
Wildlife SOS remains dedicated to its mission of rescuing wildlife in distress around the country. If you would like to support our efforts, consider donating to our cause HERE. Alternatively, you can sponsor the ongoing professional care of one of the leopards at our centre, by following this LINK.