Wildlife officials in India have helped reunite a leopard cub that was separated from her mother. Villagers in the north-eastern state of Assam found the two-month old female stuck in a trench in a tea garden.
Wildlife vet Khanin Changmai, who was called to attend to the cub, told the BBC that he found her “playful and uninjured, but slightly dehydrated”. India has more than 12,500 leopards. With their habitat shrinking, the cats often stray into villages near forests.
Reports of man-animal conflict have been growing in recent years across the country as leopards come into the villages and kill livestock. They have also sometimes entered crowded areas and attacked people.
The latest incident, which took place in Natun Gaon village in Tinsukia district on the morning of 23 May, has been reported only recently by wildlife officials.
“There was panic in the nearby villages when tea pluckers spotted the leopard in the tea garden. She fled when they raised an alarm,” Dr Changmai, a vet with the Wildlife Trust of India, told the BBC’s Geeta Pandey. He said the plantation owner was led to the trench by the cub’s crying. Since she was unable to come up on her own, the villagers rescued her and took her to a nearby house. Dr Changmai said he gave her “15-20ml of oral rehydration solution (ORS) to treat her dehydration”.
The village is close to two small sanctuaries and is separated by a river from the Dibru-Soikhowa National Park, home to tigers, leopards and other wild animals. Dr Changmai said the villagers were worried that the leopard would return to find the cub and insisted that we take her away and also set a trap to catch the mother, “but we convinced them that they must not interfere and leave the cub where they’d found her”.
The cub was returned to the area “in a cardboard box, lightly sealed with tape to ensure it couldn’t get out on its own but the mother would be able to tear it open”.
“We checked on her again in the evening and gave her some more ORS. We set up camera traps to monitor the area. The villagers also kept an eye to ensure it wasn’t attacked by dogs,” Dr Changmai said.
“At night, less than 12 hours after they were separated, the mother found the box and retrieved her cub,” he added.