Residents of Oni village near Rajapur in Ratnagiri District woke up to the growling of a leopard yesterday. They immediately informed officials of the Ratnagiri forest division when they found it trapped in a well, so that it could be rescued unharmed.
What surprised the residents was that the growling they woke up to, belonged to a full-grown black leopard, a first-ever for most of the villagers. The leopard had fallen into a 40-feet deep well that belonged to Akbar Hazau, a resident of the village. The animal had perched itself on a rock in the well to save itself from drowning.
Deputy Forest Officer (DFO) Amar Sabke, who successfully rescued the animal with the help of forest guard Suresh Upare, said, “We immediately left for the spot after being informed by the villagers about a rare black leopard that had fallen into a well. We were very happy to see it, because sightings of this animal in the wild are extremely rare. Without wasting time, we rescued it safely from the well.”
In the past, a few villagers had informed the forest department about them spotting a black leopard, but their claims were not taken seriously, as the villagers lacked photographic evidence of the animal. According to a villager, the leopard must have approached the well in search of water and must have fallen into it while attempting to drink from it.
“Rescuing the animal was not an easy job because we had to take utmost precautions, so that it was rescued safely. A cage was lowered into the well and the leopard jumped into it the moment it was near him. The animal was then taken for a medical examination. Since the leopard was completely fit, it was immediately released back into the wild,” said Upare.
Since the sighting of black leopards is a rare phenomenon, around 500 people had gathered to see the animal. According to the forest department officials, it was a full-grown male leopard, weighing nearly 50 kilograms. Even the collector, additional collector and other officials from the revenue department visited the village to get a glimpse of the animal before it was released back into the wild.
Did you know?
Melanistic leopards are commonly called black panthers or black leopards. They are found in the forests of Western Ghats and north-east India. They are black in colour due to presence of excess melanin in their bodies. The colour of their fur is a mixture of blue, black, grey, and purple.
In 2010, a black leopard had died at Guhagar in Konkan after falling into a well