Human-wildlife conflicts have become a regular occurrence due to the continuous decline in natural animal habitation and forest cover. Human encroachments on forest lands have been steadily on the rise for the last many decades and as a result, wild animal sightings in human habitations has become the new norm.
Leopard is one such animal that is increasingly coming in contact with human habitations due to factors such as habitat fragmentation and loss of hunting grounds and prey. In an incident that took place earlier this week in Aligarh, an adult leopard was sighted inside a college campus causing panic amongst the students and staff.
The leopard, later identified as an approximately 6-year-old male, had ventured into Chaudhary Nihal Singh Inter College in the search for food and shelter. The big cat was first spotted near the staircase on the ground floor after which the Forest Department was promptly informed of the incident, and they in turn requested Wildlife SOS for assistance on this delicate rescue mission.
Equipping themselves with safety nets, a trap cage and protective gear, a five-member team from Wildlife SOS rushed to assist a team of forest officers in the rescue operation. After taking stock of the situation, the team first ensured that the students, teachers and staff of the college were all safely evacuated. Quite a big crowd had gathered outside on the college lawns, which was monitored to ensure the safety of the people as well as to cause minimum distress to the leopard.
The team tracked the leopard with the help of CCTV cameras and found him on the first floor of the college building. The panic-stricken leopard kept running from one classroom to another in an attempt to escape which made the rescue mission even more difficult. The rescue team called in for a bucket truck which is often used for repairing street lights. This bucket truck helped the team in finding the exact location of the leopard without compromising on the safety of any team member.
The big cat was eventually located in a classroom, hiding behind a chair. The team swiftly blocked his exit with a plywood board and Wildlife SOS Veterinary Officer, Dr. Rahul Prasad carefully immobilized the big cat using a sedative through a window.
The leopard was then safely shifted into a trap cage and later released in the Shivalika forest division in Saharanpur after a grueling rescue operation which lasted for more than 4 hours! The swift action by the Wildlife SOS team and the Forest Department led to a successful rescue mission that did not compromise on the safety of the staff and students of Chaudhary Nihal Singh Inter College as well as the safety and secure release of the leopard.
Such incidents are a direct result of loss of forest cover and encroachment leading to depletion of natural prey base and habitat, which in turn forces wild animals like leopards to venture into human settlements in search of food and shelter. This often leads to human-leopard conflicts which can have violent and brutal consequences for both humans and the animals if handled improperly. With proper care and caution, as seen in this case, such incidents can be averted altogether.
You can see the entire Leopard Rescue mission and the successful release in this video.
Credit goes to the staff and students of Chaudhary Nihal Singh Inter College who very responsibly contacted the authorities rather than take matters into their own hands. Their quick thinking and rapid response by the Forest Department and Wildlife SOS controlled a volatile situation and averted a major calamity.