It was a day of excitement, relief and extreme compassion as a leopard trapped in a narrow culvert was rescued and released to the forests by the authorities with the help of locals in Assam.
In a seemingly potential conflict of man and animal, it was heartening to see local people all geared up to help rescue the animal. The incident took place on 23rd March Wednesday evening in Assam, a North eastern Indian state. Workers of Halmira Tea estate in Golaghat province, a mere 60 kms from Kaziranga National Park, sighted the leopard and tried to chase it away.
The scared leopard trapped itself in a culvert trying to take shelter. The locals then erected a cage on one side of the culvert and bamboo fenced the other end in an attempt to capture the leopard. They informed the authorities in the morning: a wise move by the locals.
Wildlife Trust of India and International Fund for Animal Welfare (WTI-IFAW) accompanied by the forest department, veterinarians arrived at the spot to begin rescue operations. Since the culvert was narrow and the animal was not able to move, the leopard had to be tranquilised. The leopard was lifted off the culvert and shifted to a cage and transported.
“As is usual in these cases, crowd control was a problem, but the Police personnel did a great job of managing the mob. But, there were, among this crowd, people who helped set up a platform to facilitate tranquilisation, for which we are thankful. Also, on behalf of the Forest Department especially Golaghat division, I thank the IFAW-WTI team for rescuing the leopard.”
The 6-7 year old leopard was a female and appeared healthy, though dehydrated and weak. Dr.Bhawal said, initially they were planning to release the leopard the same day but they observed that the tranquiliser had left the animal somewhat disoriented. So the animal was taken to Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) run by IFAW- WTI, and monitored by the animal keepers and veterinarians. The next day it was set out to the Nambor Wild life Sanctuary close to the rescue site.
WTI’s chief veterinarian Dr. NVK Ashraf remarked how this was a model example that people from other parts of the country can easily follow.
He said “This is a classic case of how these kinds of situations can be easily handled if the crowd is effectively controlled. Throughout India, generally human-carnivore confrontations get aggravated when people ignore the authorities’ requests to keep away and do as they please. So many people as well as animals get unnecessarily injured this way. Most cases need no intervention, apart from providing a free unhindered passage for the animal.”
Man animal conflicts are bound to increase with shrinking wild life habitat. Appropriate crowd management and awareness among people can help reduce conflicts. This case highlights the help and co-operation extended by the locals in joining hands with authorities in saving the life of the leopard. The tea garden authorities also provided a truck to transport the animal in the cage besides helping in the rescue. The forest officials were highly appreciative of this factor and believed such gestures go a long way in assisting to help conserve and save wild animals.
– Freelance Contributor
Image by Sashanka Barbaruah courtesy IFAW/WTI