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50 lost leopard cubs reunited with mothers in Pune district in 10 years

The most recent successful reunion was of four 20-day leopard cubs in Shirur in Pune district on Saturday

mumbai Updated: Mar 27, 2018 10:32 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra,leopard,leopard cubs
The most recent successful reunion was of four 20-day leopard cubs in Shirur in Pune district on Saturday(WILDLIFE SOS)

In the past 10 years, 50 lost leopard cubs have been reunited with their mothers in Junnar in Pune district, as part of the tracking programme carried out by the forest department and Wildlife SOS Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre (MLRC) since 2009.

The most recent successful reunion was of four 20-day leopard cubs in Shirur in Pune district on Saturday. Farmers from Takali Haji village in Shirur stumbled upon the four cubs while harvesting sugarcane. They informed the forest department, and by 5.30pm, a team from Wildlife SOS MLRC (60 kms away from Takali Haji) and forest officials reached the spot. “The cubs were healthy. As we began preparations for the reunion, local villagers objected and said it was a threat to their life. It took us almost an hour to convince them the cubs need to go back to the mother,” said Ajay Deshmukh, senior veterinarian, MLRC, adding, “Around 6.30pm, we set up camera traps and placed the cubs in a crate at the same spot they were found. By 7.30pm, the mother reached the spot, but carried only three of the four cubs. We patiently waited for another three hours, and she returned again for her last cub. The reunion was caught by the camera traps.”

A majority of the 50 reunions took place over the past three years, said MLRC members. These cubs were found in different locations in Junnar forest division – Junnar, Ambegaon, Khed and Shirur – all having forests with large population of leopards.

According to data from MLRC, this year, a total of six reunions have been reported from Ottur and Shirur ranges, 13 reunions were reported in 2017 from Shirur, Junnar, and Nifad (near Nashik) ranges. Five cubs were reunited in 2016, eight cubs in 2015 (mostly in Narayangaon range), six in 2014, four in 2013, and eight between 2009 and 2012.

Wildlife biologists said the reunions are essential. “This is a unique success story for the entire country and needs to be highlighted in light of conservation measures. Animals living in captivity are known to struggle much more than that in the wild, as the natural process is changed for them. The efforts by the MLRC and the forest department have saved a lot of government resources. On local level also, it sends a strong message as farmers get to know the importance of leopard conservation and fostering a more peaceful environment,” said Vidya Athreya, wildlife biologist.

Senior officers from the forest department lauded MLRC’s efforts and said they will be replicating the model in Vidarbha. “The work carried out by Ajay Deshmukh is exemplary. Similar instances of man-animal conflict with tigers are seen in Vidarbha region. We have already reached out to MLRC and Wildlife SOS to help us develop a similar programme here,” said Sunil Limaye, additional principal chief conservator of forests, Nagpur.

First Published: Mar 27, 2018 10:31 IST