2021 has been a difficult year with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. While it continued to affect all aspects of our lives, the Wildlife SOS Rapid Response teams remained committed to the cause and responded to myriad wildlife rescue calls. To pay homage to our dedicated and hard-working teams, we are highlighting some of the most memorable and exciting wildlife rescues of 2021!
1. Leopard Rescues
The Wildlife SOS team rescued a nearly 8-year-old male leopard from a densely populated residential area in Agra. CCTV footage installed in the street captured the big cat running out of a house and wandering frantically across the narrow, crowded streets. The leopard eventually made its way into a small fruit storage room. The locals managed to lock the animal inside.
The Wildlife SOS Rapid Response Unit assisted the Forest Department in the successful rescue operation. They safely released the leopard back to its natural habitat. A lot of civilians nearby were involved, making the mission very sensitive. The team ensured proper crowd control as well as safe extraction of the leopard.
Another nerve-wracking operation involved a 6-year-old male leopard that had entered a college in Aligarh. The staff, students and teachers quickly evacuated the premises. The Wildlife SOS team tracked the leopard with the help of CCTV footage as it kept scampering around. After a difficult process of spotting the leopard by using a bucket truck, the team finally managed to tranquilise the leopard. Wildlife SOS and the Forest Department safely released the leopard into the wild.
Our team dealt with a similar incident in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra where a leopard broke into the cafeteria of a Govt. run school. Upon arrival, rescuers from Wildlife SOS and the Forest Department secured all entry and exit points. After that, they carefully set the rescue plan in motion. In the meantime, the panic-stricken leopard kept scrambling from one corner of the room to the other in an effort to escape. Eventually, they had to drill a hole into the door of the cafeteria to tranquilise the big cat. The leopard was safely shifted to a trap cage and transferred to the Wildlife SOS Leopard Rescue Centre in Junnar. The vets kept it there for medical care and observation. After receiving confirmation from the vet, the team released the leopard in a neighbouring forest range.
2. Heartwarming Reunions
This has been the year of successful rescues and reunions by the Wildlife SOS team at the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Center. We managed to reunite 22 leopard cubs with their mothers! One such event occurred when the farmers at Umbraj village found three 45-day-old leopard cubs amidst one of their sugarcane fields. They maintained a distance from the area while a Wildlife SOS veterinarian examined and microchipped the cubs. Later that day, the team reunited the cubs with their mom. She picked them up one by one and moved them to a different area.
In Maharashtra, sugarcane fields provide a safe cover for wild cats to give birth in and to rear their cubs. During the pre-harvest and harvest season, sugarcane farmers often come across stranded cubs in the fields which can lead to conflict situations. If female leopards are unable to locate their cubs, it is natural for them to turn defensive or aggressive and they pose an immediate threat to humans in close proximity. Therefore, it is important to reunite the cubs with the mothers at the earliest.
Another instance of a successful reunion includes the case where farmers found two 45-day-old Rusty-spotted cats and mistook them for leopard cubs! Upon arriving at the spot, the Wildlife SOS team examined the kittens and deemed them fit. They were placed in a safe box so we could safely reunite them with their mother.
3. Animals Rescued from Accidents
Over the years, we’ve come across many cases where road accidents have left animals critically injured. A speeding vehicle hit an Indian Striped Hyena in Bhilawali village, Agra. When the Wildlife SOS Rapid Response Unit arrived, they found that the hyena had hindquarter paralysis. They immediately took the hyena in for medical examination. After an X-ray, they were able to confirm that the Hyena was suffering from a fracture in the spine.
In a similar accident, a speeding vehicle hit a female Sambar deer on the Kalyan Nirmal Highway (NH-222) in Pune district, Maharashtra. Concerned passers-by contacted the Forest Department upon spotting the wounded Sambar deer sitting on the side of the road in shock. The Wildlife SOS team went in to provide medical assistance. The veterinarians treated the deer on the spot and released it.
The Rapid Response Unit in Delhi rescued an injured brown-headed gull that was lying on the tracks at Kalindi Kunj Metro Station. This instance of people showing patience and willingness to stop the metro services to aid the rescue of this bird restores our faith in humanity!
4. Anti-Poaching Operations
In a shocking incident, a three-year-old female leopard got her left forelimb caught in a deadly jaw trap in Kuruli village of Maharashtra. Recognising the extremity of the situation, a four-member team from Wildlife SOS geared up with safety nets, tranquillising equipment and protective gear to assist the Forest Department in the rescue operation. Our veterinary doctor successfully immobilised the big cat, using a sedative injection from a safe distance. He safely removed the jaw trap from the entrapped paw and provided topical treatment for external injuries on-site.
Another instance where hunting traps have been fatal to animals is the case of the 3-year-old female Sloth bear who was rescued by us this year. A deadly snare trap had clamped down on her limb, leaving her immobilized. The Sloth bear, named Millie, is currently undergoing treatment at Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Centre. The trap gravely injured her limb, rendering her unable to walk. Our veterinary team is giving her intensive care to ensure that she is not in pain and is able to walk again. Her wound has started to heal and she is taking slow, measured steps around the enclosure.
A huge success we can recount from this year is when the Police, Forest Department, and Wildlife SOS raided a major wildlife crime ring in Jalgaon, Maharashtra. Our team suspected that they were illegally selling animal parts and had been tracking the ring for months. We were able to narrow down their base of operations to two locations. The raiding team recovered 10 live Rose-ringed parakeets and 2 Alexandrine Parakeets, 40 Black corals, 3 dead Monitor lizards, 8 genitals of monitor lizards, 40 porcupine quills 400 Musk deer parts among other items!
Every year during Diwali, the Wildlife SOS-GSPCA team assists the Forest Department to curb ritualistic sacrifices of owls in Vadodara. Due to the misconception that this cruel act gains the favour of deities like the goddess Laxmi or Kali, the festive time of Diwali witnesses an increase in cruelty against owls.
This year, a team member rescued an injured Barn owl outside Swaminarayan Temple in Vadodara. A medical examination brought to light the fact that a part of the bird’s left wing had been clipped. The owl is suspected of being used in a tantric ritual that requires the bird to be sacrificed or a part of its wing or blood to be offered.
5. Reptiles Day Out!
In the month of September, the staff at Rashtrapati Bhavan (Hon. President’s Residence) got the scare of their life when they found a wolf snake in one of the restrooms. Upon receiving a call from the panicked staff, the Wildlife SOS team reached the premises and carefully extricated the snake. Over the years, our Rapid Response unit has conducted several wildlife rescue operations from the vast premises of the Hon. President’s estate.
In a similar incident, some people found a 4-foot-long Black-headed Royal Snake comfortably nestled inside the iconic Red Fort in Delhi. Of course, the staff at Red Fort was certainly not expecting to find royalty sleeping on their premises! They quickly dialled our helpline number and our team arrived to rescue the snake.
Some other unique places where animals were found include a Monitor Lizard that was spotted amidst detergent packets at a grocery store in Delhi, a five-foot-long Indian Rat Snake inside a family’s car in Agra, and a 12-foot-long Indian Rock Python at Delhi Jal Board’s Bhagirathi Water Treatment Plant! However, our team is prepared to handle all kinds of challenges for the safety of these incredible reptiles.
6. Crocodile Rescues
In a bizarre occurrence, a Mugger crocodile was found wandering inside the Khaswadi cemetery in Vadodara. Wildlife SOS-GSPCA team and personnel from the forest and fire department rushed to conduct the rescue operation. Though the “tale of the cemetery crocodile” was solved and the crocodile was safely released into the wild, we feel that its legacy might carry on and it become an urban legend in the area!
One other instance of a surprising crocodile sighting is when the residents of Milavali Village located in Firozabad, Uttar Pradesh found a 6-foot long crocodile in a sewer drain! The terrified villagers alerted the Forest Department and Wildlife SOS who proceeded to safely extract the crocodile from the area.
7. Unusual Bird Rescues
Our team successfully rescued and treated a juvenile Greater Flamingo bird. They relocated it amidst a resident flock of flamingos in the Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary in Agra. The flamingo was suffering from scratch wounds on both its wings.
In St. Peter’s church, Agra, some concerned citizens spotted an Egyptian vulture that had collapsed in the church garden. Being concerned about the bird’s well-being, they called the Wildlife SOS helpline number. Two members of our team arrived at the location and swiftly rushed the bird to the recovery facility for treatment. The vets found that the bird was suffering from heat exhaustion and gave it oral rehydration solution and glucose.
8. Mistaken Identity
One day, a lot of panicked people flooded the Jammu and Kashmir helpline number with calls about leopard cub sightings. Upon reaching, the team found that that the animals were in fact, three baby jungle cats and not leopards. The rescue team took this opportunity to educate the public about the difference between jungle cats and leopards!
After a medical examination, the Wildlife SOS team helped the Wildlife Protection Department to reunite them with their mother.
These were some of our most unique and exciting rescues of the year thus far! The Wildlife SOS team continues to rescue multiple animals every day! This year, we also had the chance to rescue four elephants- Emma, Nina, Pari and Ginger and rehabilitate them at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital. We hope to help many more animals each day.
If you come across a wild animal in distress, please call our 24-hour helpline number! Wildlife SOS operates 24×7 emergency rescue helplines in three cities:
Delhi NCR – +91-9871963535
Agra & Mathura in Uttar Pradesh – +91-9917109666
Vadodara, Gujarat – +91-9825011117
Jammu & Kashmir – +91-7006692300, +91-9419778280