Over the past few days, CCTV footage of a leopard running out of a house in Agra has been doing the rounds on social media. This left the residents of Sitanagar, a densely populated residential area in Etmauddaula in a state of shock and fear when they discovered this reality right in front of their eyes!
A full-grown leopard darted right across them to seek shelter in a small fruit storage room behind one of the buildings. Naturally, the leopard was just as scared of the unfamiliar human faces around him, far away from his territory and natural habitat. Leopards are shy, elusive animals, who are often times forced out of their habitats due to increasing encroachment and shrinking prey base.
The alert residents immediately reached out to the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department and informed them of the sensitive situation. In the meantime, the leopard was trapped inside the cramped room and the locals managed to lock the door from the outside, to ensure it did not escape. A team from the Forest Department was carefully assessing the entire situation and reached out to the Wildlife SOS rapid response team, operating out of Agra for their assistance in the rescue operation.
By this time, a crowd of nearly 200 people gathered around the place, to witness this rare occurrence, thus making the rescue operation even more sensitive! Local police were also involved to put necessary crowd control measures in place, so as to allow the rescue team to conduct the operation successfully.
The Wildlife SOS rescuers have plausible experience in safely immobilising leopards found in such situations of conflict, before releasing them back to the wild. Once the area was cordoned off, Wildlife SOS Deputy Director for Veterinary Operations and Research, Dr. Ilayaraja, prepared the tranquilisation darts and the blowpipe by which the leopard would be sedated. Our team carefully drilled hole in the wall of the storage room to get a clear visual on exact location of the leopard.
Once the leopard was immobilised and safely shifted to a trap cage, it was transferred to the Wildlife SOS Animal Hospital for immediate medical care and observation, understanding that it underwent severe stress in the past few days. The leopard was estimated to be a male, nearly 7 to 8 years of age.
It was, indeed, an extremely challenging rescue operation due to the mounting, panic-stricken crowd and the stress of the leopard. The leopard was later released in the Shivalik range of Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, away from human habitation. Forest Officers and our team were assembled at a safe distance to observe the leopard’s return to its natural habitat, to avoid hindering the operation. Watching the leopard take slow, sure strides out of the trap cage and dashing to the forest was a breathtaking sight. Such releases play an important role in conservation to help sustain the population of the wild animals in their rightful home, while simultaneously raising awareness among local communities.
Last year, Wildlife SOS assisted the Forest Department in the safe rescue and release of an adult leopard that was wandering across Govardhan city in Mathura. The Indian leopard is awarded the highest form of protection under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, thus penalizing any person who threatens their population by hunting, maiming or harassing them. If you spot a wild animal in distress, please refrain from approaching them or harming them and immediately reach out to the Forest Department or the Wildlife SOS Rescue Hotlines.