Leopard being lifted out of the well by Wildlife SOS

Wildlife SOS and Maharashtra Forest Department Successfully Rescue Leopard from Open Well

When contemplating the various threats faced by India’s leopard population, one’s mind typically gravitates towards the well-known dangers of poaching and habitat loss. Undoubtedly, these issues pose significant risks, but scattered across the landscape lies a peril that often goes unnoticed – open wells. These rudimentary cavities, reaching down to the water table, serve as a vital water source. However, a single village may excavate up to 200 wells to cater to its community’s needs. Ranging from 2 to 20 meters in diameter and plunging to depths of up to 70 meters, these wells are mostly devoid of any protective barriers or covers. Year after year, numerous animals, including leopards, jackals, civets, wolves, hyenas, and even the occasional human, unwittingly stumble into these treacherous openings – finding themselves trapped with no hope of escape, unless someone intervenes.

In June 2023, the residents of Nimgaon Sava village (located in Otur Forest Range, Junnar) heard unusual noises emanating from a nearby well. Upon investigation, they discovered the heart-wrenching site of a leopard struggling to keep itself afloat. The well was 30 feet deep, and swift action was required. The concerned residents quickly contacted the Maharashtra Forest Department, who, along with the Wildlife SOS Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre, assembled an expert rescue team. It’s a credit to both the forest department and Wildlife SOS that the team and equipment were able to arrive on site immediately.

With no time to lose, a trap cage was lowered into the well. The rescuers worked hard, until the exhausted leopard eventually climbed into the cage. After being carefully lifted out, a Wildlife SOS veterinary officer was able to carry out an on-site health assessment. The leopard was identified as an adult male, approximately 9–10 years old. Luckily, apart from exhaustion, the leopard only suffered superficial scratches on its body, and so could be handed over the forest department for release back into its natural habitat.

The whole operation took 5 hours to complete, and with the combined efforts of the villagers, forest department and Wildlife SOS, this turned out to be one leopard’s lucky day.

Wildlife SOS (WSOS) a non-profit charity has been at the forefront of leopard conservation in India for more than 15 years. It operates various rescue centres and sanctuaries across India, for a wide range of species, including elephants, leopards, bears and more. In addition to their rescue efforts, the organization actively promotes conservation and education initiatives to raise awareness about wildlife protection and foster a harmonious coexistence between humans and animals – this includes leading a campaign get wells covered.

Watch the rescue effort here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBEpvcnGGI4