ON THURSDAY morning, when a farmer was busy harvesting crops in Taklihaji village in Shirur district, he was shocked to stumble upon a pair of leopard cubs hidden in the fields. However, instead of kiling them as is the practice typically, he phoned the local forest officer and updated him.
Within minutes, the officer reached the place. By that time, a huge crowd had gathered around the cubs. “The first challenge was to control the crowd. People were clicking photos and had surrounded the cubs. All this, could have caused stress to the cubs. Hence, we asked the villagers to vacate the land. Meanwhile, I called the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre and sought help. We took the cubs, placed them in a crate below a tree, presuming that the mother leopard will come looking for cubs and take them. We were watching from afar and were sitting around 500 metres away. She didn’t come the entire day. Sometime later in the evening after 7 pm, she came and took her cubs away,” said Dattatreya Paphale, forest officer.
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Wildlife SOS veterinary officer Dr Ajay Deshmukh based in Manikdoh Centre, who reached the spot around 2 pm, said that initially, the villagers insisted that the rescue team capture the mother and cubs, and take them away. “Earlier, we used to follow that practice but later noticed that this led to another problem – the mother leopard turned aggressive when she found her cubs missing. It took a lot of time to convince the villagers and make them agree to allow the mother leopard to take her cubs,” said Dr Deshmukh.
Dr Deshmukh further shared that over the past few years, sighting a leopard has become a common phenomenon in the Shirur district. “Many times, the mother delivers cubs in the sugarcane fields. Since there are many sugarcane farms in Junnar district, between the year 2009 and 2015, we rescued nearly 30 cubs and reunited them with their mothers,” he said, adding that such cases are reported mainly during harvesting season – October to April. With rapid deforestation, the cases of man-animal conflict have become frequent and hence, there’s a need to sensitise people to deal with such situations without harming the animals, stressed Dr Deshmukh.