A pair of eight-week-old leopard cubs were found in a sugarcane field in Ale village, situated in Otur Forest Range of Junnar subdivision, Pune district, Maharashtra.
In a successful operation carried out by the Maharashtra Forest Department and by Wildlife SOS, the two cubs were rescued and reunited with their mother.
Just a few days after four leopard cubs were safely rescued and reunited with their mother in Kabadwadi village, sugarcane farmers from Ale village in Otur forest range stumbled upon two leopard cubs. They alerted the Forest Department who alongwith the Wildlife SOS team operating out of the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre assisted further.
The team of forest officials along with the Wildlife SOS team travelled nearly 40 km to reach the location. Upon arrival, Wildlife SOS veterinarian Dr. Nikhil Bangar conducted an on-site health check-up.
On further examination, he identified the cubs as one male and one female, approximately eight-weeks- old. The cubs were then taken to the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre for further medical examination and on being declared healthy, they were reunited with their mother.
The officer said, “On Saturday night, the team placed the cubs in a safe box close to the location from where they were rescued. To ensure a successful reunion, the rescue team lined the safe box with the cubs’ urine drops, so that it acts as a scent marking to assist the mother leopard in locating the cubs more easily. Camera traps captured the heartwarming moment when the mother leopard found her cubs and carefully carried them away to a safer location.”
Dr. Nikhil Bangar, Veterinary Officer, Wildlife SOS said, “The sugarcane farmers of Maharashtra have to tread very carefully because harvest season coincides with the birthing period of leopards. The dense sugarcane fields foster a suitable shelter for the leopards to breed in and nurture their cubs but this also gives rise to conflict situations. This is the second reunion operation we have conducted this month.”
Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-founder and CEO, Wildlife SOS said, “In order to survive in the wild and learn the skills of survival, it is crucial for leopard cubs to be reared by their mothers for the first two years of their lives. Reunification is a sensitive matter and to ensure it goes off smoothly, we install remotely operated cameras and camera traps, which helps in surveillance as well as documentation of the entire process.”
It is not uncommon for farmers to be exposed to leopard cubs taking up shelter in sugarcane fields in Maharashtra. Farmers often find cubs as young as 15 days to two months old. But living in close proximity to the leopards, the farmers and local communities play a significant role in conflict mitigation and encouraging the idea of co-existence.