Dr Khanin Changmai, veterinarian for Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), received a call from the Assam Forestry Department on May 23, according to a WTI Press release. A small leopard had been found by tea pickers in one of Natun Gaon’s tea gardens, Tinsukia, in the early hours of the morning.
The workers sounded the alarm but the commotion drove the mother away, abandoning her baby in the process.
Changmai Told BBC that the owner of the Guneshwar Hazarika plantation followed the cries of the lion cub to his location. Finding her stuck in a trench, the villagers retrieved the little one and took her to a nearby house.
When the WTI mobile veterinary service arrived, Changmai, biologist Aftab Ahmed and three employees from the forestry department took over. The melanistic female was barely a month old, says the vet; while she was âcheerful and unharmed,â she was slightly dehydrated.
Changmai administered fluids by mouth at regular intervals while the WTI and the forestry department discussed a plan for reunification. They started by setting up a “camera trap” in the hope that the mother would come back to pick up her baby.
Some residents needed reassurance, fearing that the adult leopard might pose a threat to the village. Yet when the WTI and the forestry department offered their full support, the villagers conceded.
The rescue team prepared a box, closing the flaps enough for the little one to stay safe, but not so tightly that the mother couldn’t retrieve it.
“By crossing your fingers, we put the ‘little wonder’ inside [the] comfortable, ventilated and expected box â, then regaled the WTI on a Facebook Publish.
Just before 8 p.m., the camera captured encouraging activity: The mother had returned and was filmed pushing and sniffing the box to identify her baby. A few minutes later, she tore the box apart, taking her little one out of the garden and into the wilderness safely in her mouth.
Changmai described it as a “very heartwarming” moment. âOnce we see the mother find the little oneâ¦ it looks like our efforts paid off well,â he said. mentionned.
India has around 12,800 leopards, according to the most recent situation report on this vulnerable species. Habitat destruction remains the greatest threat to their well-being in the wild, and displaced cats often move away from forests to villages, killing livestock and sometimes attacking people.
WTI, in partnership with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Assam Forestry Department, saves, rehabilitates and releases wildlife in the region. The group also helps alleviate human-animal conflict through community outreach.
It is the passion and expertise of the WTI that have made it possible to minimize the time between the abandonment of the leopard and the meeting with her mother on May 23. According to Changmai, not all reunifications work, which makes this happy ending particularly poignant.