Officials from the Forest Department and an NGO prevented a man-animal conflict situation from arising by safely rescuing a leopard that had fallen into a well in a village near Pune on Monday.

A cot was lowered into the well to rescue the leopard, which was suspected to have fallen in while chasing a dog
A cot was lowered into the well to rescue the leopard, which was suspected to have fallen in while chasing a dog

Residents of Kothapur village in Pune district’s Ambegaon taluka heard growling sounds from a well in the village early on Monday morning and when they went close to find the source, they saw a full-grown leopard sitting on a rocky ledge inside the well, which is more than 30 feet deep.

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It is suspected that the leopard, which is believed to be five years old, had fallen into the well while chasing a dog on Sunday night. The villagers informed the forest department, which alerted the team from the NGO Wildlife SOS. The area comes under the Shirur Range of the Forest Department.

“Around 8.30 am, we got a call from a forest official, who told us that a leopard had fallen into a well. We rushed to the village, which is around 70 km away and our priority was to rescue the animal as quickly as possible so that no conflict arises,” said Dr Ajay Deshmukh, a veterinary doctor from Wildlife SOS.

The news of the leopard falling into the well had, meanwhile, spread like wildfire and a crowd of more than 100 people had gathered near the well to catch a glimpse of the feline by the time the team from the forest department and the NGO reached the spot.

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After the local police dispersed the crowd, the rescue operation began around 10 am. The operation presented unique challenges, as tranquilising the leopard was not a feasible option, given that it could have led to the feline falling into the water in an unconscious state.

“Rescuing the animal by tranquilising it was not possible and lowering a ladder into the well to allow it to climb out was also not an option, as the well was surrounded by houses and there were chances of the leopard trying to enter one of the houses for its own safety. That could have led to the leopard or humans getting injured,” said Dr Deshmukh.

After much deliberation, a charpai (wooden cot) was lowered into the well and the leopard climbed onto it. “Later, a crane was called in and a trap cage was lowered into the well, parallel to the cot. The animal climbed into the cage after which the door was shut and the leopard was safely pulled out of the well,” he added. The entire operation took about four hours.

“The leopard is male and is around five years old. It is at the rescue centre currently and is completely fine and healthy,” said Wildlife SOS Director Kartik Satyanarayan. The leopard will be released into the wild soon after the Forest Department takes a decision.