Ailing Leopard Treated and Returned to the Wild
The leopard (panthera pardus) is among the most adaptable of the big cat species present in the world today. Leopards are commonly found in human-dominated landscapes because of this reason, often resulting in frequent conflict. The rescue and rehabilitation work of organisations such as Wildlife SOS is integral to mitigating this conflict and ensuring the continued survival of leopards, as well as peaceful coexistence between humans and wildlife.
Nocturnal by nature, leopards can seldom be spotted in broad daylight unless they are ill or have been hurt. A sight similar to this was observed by the residents of a village in the Yawal sub-division of Jalgaon district in Maharashtra, India, when they were left bewildered upon spotting a leopard in the middle of the field during the day. Understanding the dangers of approaching or disturbing a wild animal, the residents immediately reached out to the Maharashtra Forest Department and informed them of the presence of the recumbent leopard.
The leopard placed under observation
The leopard’s unusual behaviour was of particular concern as it appeared weak and thus, was immobile. Working closely with Wildlife SOS, the Maharashtra Forest Department reached out to our leopard team operating out of the Leopard Rescue Centre in Junnar division for assistance. When the officials reached the field where the leopard was, they learnt that the leopard was, indeed, severely dehydrated and weak.
The leopard was estimated to be a male, approximately 8 years old. It was crucial to safely translocate him for the necessary medical treatment, as his presence in the village would put his life and safety at risk. The local communities were also in fear of harm to their lives and livestock with an adult leopard lying so close to where they lived.
The leopard was rushed to the Wildlife SOS Leopard Rescue Centre for detailed medical examination and treatment. His preliminary assessment revealed that the animal was suffering from a severe liver infection which was the cause of intense pain surfacing from his abdominal area. The intensity of pain was such that he was unable to hunt actively, leading to gradually losing strength and growing malnourished.
The leopard showed positive signs of recovery under the care of the Wildlife SOS team
Close to geriatric age, the first few weeks of his medical treatment were crucial. He was administered broad-spectrum antibiotics, fluid therapy, pain management as well as liver-boosting supplements. He gradually grew alert and regained his strength for the next few weeks. The veterinary team at the Wildlife SOS Leopard Rescue Centre regularly ran blood tests and observed his behavior to ascertain his progress. A final examination confirmed that he had recovered completely from his ailment and was fit to be released to the wild.
The Wildlife SOS team accompanied Maharashtra Forest Department for the safe release of the leopard. The leopard was active as he dashed from the cage and straight into the thickets of the forest, disappearing into the foliage. He was released in a habitat suitable for his species, away from human habitation and with a rich, suitable prey base. The treatment of wild animals such as leopards needs to be conducted with utmost care while also ensuring safety measures of all the three stakeholders – the Forest Department, the veterinary team, and the local communities.
The leopard upon being shifted to Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary for release
Wildlife SOS has been working actively in the field of leopard conservation since 2007, with the support of the Maharashtra Forest Department. They regularly conduct capacity-building workshops with local communities and the Forest Department and aim to minimise the conflict between humans and leopards.
Image Credits (for all image): Wildlife SOS
For more details about Wildlife SOS’s rescue and rehabilitation work, please visit: https://wildlifesos.org/