Three leopard cubs were found in a sugarcane field in Vadgaon Sahani village in Junnar taluka of Pune district, Maharashtra, on Sunday. Wildlife SOS, an NGO, collaborated with the state forest department in keeping the three cubs safe until their mother was reunited with them.
Villagers in this area are familiar with the big cat, and had alerted forest officials after spotting the cubs. The three were brought to Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre, run by Wildlife SOS, for a medical examination. Dr. Nikhil Bangar, who examined them for ticks and injuries, said the three were about 15 days old. There were two male and one female cub. He said they were healthy.
Initial attempts to reunite the cubs with their mother did not yield any results. However, on Monday, the rescuers took the precious load of cubs in a box and placed it back in the fields. Hours later, a camera they had placed at the spot captured the mother returning to her children. She sniffed out the little ones and carried them away with her.
Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, said, “The sugarcane harvest season coincides with the cub season, and this puts them (the leopards) in conflict with human beings. We are grateful to villagers who called the forest staff to the spot. Wildlife SOS works with the forest department staff to keep leopards safe and train villagers to coexist with them.”
Range forest officer Yogesh Ghodke said: “Junnar has a significant leopard population. With the forest cover shrinking the animals seek refuge among the tall sugarcane stalks.”
(The author is a freelance journalist based in Pune.)