Trials of the Spotted Kind

A little awareness, a little compassion and a little common sense can go a long way to make the country safer for wildlife.

Leopard cub who was left paralysed after highway accident, learns to walk again with the help of Wildlife SOS.

With accelerated economic growth resulting in rapid infrastructural development in India, the road transport network has received a much-needed makeover, which incorporates construction of new expressways, improved and connected railways and expansion of existing highways.  Although these developments may appear to be a boon for the society, is also a bane for the lesser acknowledged beings- the Indian Wildlife.

Highways built through protected areas and natural reserves have a severe toll on the wildlife that inhabits these areas. They are directly responsible not only for the severe ecological impacts and fragmentation of their natural habitats but also for the rise in number of wildlife mortality resulting from road accidents. With little or no provision for wildlife corridors or underpasses that allow the animals to cross the road safely, many unsuspecting animals put their lives at risk as they often wander onto these busy highways only to end up getting injured or even killed.

Unfortunately, incidents like this are becoming more frequent as development tends to take precedence over wildlife and forest conservation in the country; thereby compromising and gradually even depriving India’s precious wildlife of its forested home. The animals on finding their territory and prey base depleting due to the unwarranted invasion of their natural habitats and are forced to seek out other means for survival, usually by entering human habitation. Unaccustomed to the noise and flow of traffic, the animals face problems navigating the roads amidst speeding vehicles and incidents of road kill of wildlife is escalating. In the backdrop of this, a heartbreaking accident was brought to light earlier this month of an approximately 7-month-old female leopard cub falling victim to a speeding vehicle on a highway near Igatpuri, in Nasik district, Maharashtra.

The young feline was rescued by the Forest Department and was later transferred to the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Center run by Wildlife SOS in Junnar, near Pune. After the accident left the young cub paralyzed, her chances of recovery appeared bleak. However, the Wildlife SOS team wasn’t ready to give up on her just yet. The organisation’s Senior veterinarian Dr. Ajay Deshmukh and his team is putting in all their efforts to help the leopard walk again with the help of extensive medical care and physiotherapy treatment.

Detailed X-ray reports revealed spinal injuries which had caused complete limb paralysis but as the leopard is young, Dr. Ajay Deshmukh feels that with proper treatment she might be able to walk again. They are providing holistic treatment inclusive of medication as well as extensive physiotherapy treatment comprising of stretching exercises, massages and assisted walks. This will help reduce the pain while improving movement and restoring normal muscle control and functional ability.

For the team at the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre, it has been miraculous yet believable to watch the leopard cub grow stronger with each passing day. As part of her treatment, a wooden support structure was created to help her sit up straight.  After days of struggling to even stand up on her own, the cub is now showing positive signs of limb movement, paying off for all the efforts the team channeled in her recovery.  It is truly inspiring to see the young leopard’s undaunted spirit to recover and get back on her paws again!

Wildlife SOS often attends to emergency situations where animals have been injured due to negligent and rash driving. The absence of wildlife corridors is one reason for the recurring of such cases. Threatened by various social, economic and anthropogenic factors, the growing human population poses tremendous pressure on their natural space.  Critical for the maintenance of ecological processes, a wildlife corridor serves as a linkage between two or more large regions of wildlife habitat and facilitates freedom of movement.

In addition to strict implementation of road laws, control of speeding traffic, better lighting and installing signboards cautioning people about wildlife crossings, there is an urgent need to make the public more aware of the risks posed to wildlife by reckless driving. Spreading awareness and evoking a sense of understanding and human compassion is crucial to saving wild animals and protecting the habitats they need to survive in. Wildlife corridors and watering holes must be provided for animals that are forced to step out of their natural habitat due to depleting resources and into dangerous surroundings. Therefore, it is crucial to integrate wildlife safety and conservation planning while constructing roads through ecologically sensitive areas.


About the Author /

Wildlife SOS (WSOS) is a non-profit charity established in 1998 with the primary objective of rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife in distress across India. We actively run wildlife and nature protection projects to promote conservation, combat poaching & illegal wildlife trade. We work in partnership with the Government and indigenous communities to create sustainable livelihoods for erstwhile poacher communities. The Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Center was established in 2010 & houses over 20 elephants with elephant care facilities.

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