Wildbuzz | A big thank you from Mr Leopard

A free, roving leopard exerts a sway of terror in jungles and naturally keeps domesticated hounds at bay.
The leopard is now wandering freely in the Dhar forest block of Pathankot due to an extraordinary joint rescue effort undertaken by teams of the Pathankot and Phillaur wildlife divisions on October 24. (PHOTO: RAJESH MAHAJAN)
The leopard is now wandering freely in the Dhar forest block of Pathankot due to an extraordinary joint rescue effort undertaken by teams of the Pathankot and Phillaur wildlife divisions on October 24. (PHOTO: RAJESH MAHAJAN)
Published on Oct 31, 2021 03:08 AM IST
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ByVikram Jit Singh

A stud specimen of a young male leopard with long whiskers flaring upwards, canines curling downwards like glittering crescent moons and measuring an estimated eight feet from nose to tail tip has much to thank for in life.

It is now wandering freely in the Dhar forest block of Pathankot due to an extraordinary joint rescue effort undertaken by teams of the Pathankot and Phillaur wildlife divisions on October 24.

This was the third such lucky leopard rescued from a conflict situation in Punjab since 2017 and released into the wilderness rather than being packed off to serve life imprisonment in the Chhatbir Zoo. Prior to the visionary policy change introduced in 2017 by the then Punjab chief wildlife warden (CWW) Kuldip Kumar, the fate of Punjab’s rescued leopards was that they were packed off to the zoo where they were stuffed like sardines to satiate the boredom of ogling visitors.

Another fine male leopard rescued in a dramatic fashion from Chandigarh’s tony Sector 5 during the Covid lockdown in April 2020 also met with similar positivity from the UT wildlife department. The Sector-5 leopard was bestowed a fresh lease of freedom as it was released in a remote area of the Morni Hills, Haryana. Leopards roaming freely are apex predators of the region’s jungles. By removing them and imprisoning them in zoos under political and public pressure, not only is the jungle’s food chain disrupted but it creates a vacuum, which stray dogs fill to wantonly slaughter wild species.

The Pathankot rescue and release took 13.5 hours and was conducted in adverse hilly terrain, amid unseasonal, inclement weather. (Representative Image/HT File)
The Pathankot rescue and release took 13.5 hours and was conducted in adverse hilly terrain, amid unseasonal, inclement weather. (Representative Image/HT File)

A free, roving leopard exerts a sway of terror in jungles and naturally keeps domesticated hounds at bay.

“Our wildlife team undertook a very difficult operation to rescue the leopard in Pathankot and put their life and limb at risk. I asked DFO Pathankot Rajesh Mahajan to have the rescued leopard examined by veterinarians to see whether it was injured. When it was found free of injuries, I directed that it be rehabilitated in the wilderness. Why should we place healthy leopards in captivity?” Punjab CWW RK Mishra told this writer.

The Pathankot rescue and release took 13.5 hours and was conducted in adverse hilly terrain, amid unseasonal, inclement weather. The leopard, which was trapped in a clutch-wire contraption used for poaching and guarding crops from wild animals by agriculturists, was concealed in dense bush 500m uphill of village Dorang Koti in Dhar Kalan block.

“Our personnel volunteered to climb a tree next to the leopard to get a clear aim for the tranquillising gun. That was risky as we did not know to what extent the leopard had been immobilised by the trap. It was emitting blood-curdling snarls. However, once the tranquilliser took effect, the leopard slid down the ravine that was so steep that its angle was nearly 80 degrees. Two of our staff members then donned ropes around their waist and were lowered down like mountaineers to drag the partially unconscious leopard back to safety as it could have plunged down the ravine to its death,” Mahajan told this writer.

“Due to foul weather, we had to use flashlights during the late afternoon as visibility was low due to a sun blackout. After the tranquillised leopard was safely in the cage, all hell broke loose with cold rain and a hailstorm rendering our movement very difficult. The cold made the iron bars of the cage so icy that we found it difficult to grip the cage and carry it back to the waiting transport vehicle below. We were finally able to find shelter after a torturous drive through hail on broken hilly roads and examine the leopard. We released the leopard in the dead of night at 12.30am even as adverse weather pounded our tired bodies. In the adrenaline-packed operation, we had neither eaten nor taken water, we were soaked to the skin with cold rain. We did not have even a moment to spare to relieve our bursting bladders! But the effort was well worth it when we saw the leopard bounding away to freedom,” added Mahajan, for whom it was the seventh leopard rescue in his career.

vjswild1@gmail.com

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