Updated: November 15, 2021 9:04:04 am
THREE DAYS after it was found, the rare melanistic leopard cub was ‘manually’ reunited with its mother on Saturday night. The six-month-old female cub was rescued from a dry well near Kudal in the Sindhudurg district on Thursday. The cub is suspected to have lost its way while chasing prey and fell into the well.
In a successful effort by Pune-based NGO RESQ Wildlife and DCF Narnawar, RFO Amrut Shinde, the lost cub was safely reunited with its mother.
The animal was shifted to the local forest office on Thursday. It was in good health, alert and active and also had food and water given by the forest department staff.
However, fearing attacks from stray dogs, the forest department officials could not leave the cub in a safe box at the location. “Since it was a cub, it would be defenceless without its mother if released without her,” said the officials.
On the suggestion from the Principal Conservator of Forest Sunil Limaye, RESQ Wildlife Team were appointed to facilitate the reunion using a modified-release cage. The cub was kept in a cage instead of a basket or a box to protect it from stray dogs. Once the mother was spotted in the live camera approaching the cage, it was opened remotely.
Tuhin Satarkar from RESQ and the forest department officials conducted an on-site examination found sufficient evidence of adult’s/mother’s presence.
With no vehicle access to the location and no hideout to sit and safely open the release cage, when the mother was spotted in the live camera, the team used the dry well as a safe underground bunker to operate their manual pulley from.
“There was no time to build a safe hideout along with the fact that carrying building materials to the spot was challenging in itself. Thanks to a timely suggestion from Mr Anish Andheria (WCT), the tank it had fallen in was modified as a hideout,” said the statement from the state forest department.
The team attempted it’s a reunion on Friday. By Friday evening, the network connectivity went completely dead and the team could not open the cage as they had no visual image of the mother leopard.
“The team decided to listen in for the mother and cub vocalising, as a cue to open the cage, but due to very loud bhajan music playing in the nearby villages, the team in the bunker couldn’t hear any vocalising or sounds to confidently release the cub,” said RFO Amrut Shinde.
Later, the camera trap footage captured the mother leopard slowly approaching the cub around 9 pm on Friday. However, it left because she was unable to get the cub out.
The team decided to use a night vision dash camera with an extended cable to get visual access without the internet to attempt the reunion on Saturday.
At 8:30 pm on Saturday, the mother leopard approached the cage. The team in the bunker opened the release cage door. While the mother leopard was frightened but she took her cub and disappeared into the forest.
The high amount of pigmentation – melanin, causes the animal to appear black. Black leopards, which appear to be almost solid in colour because their spots are hard to distinguish.
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