By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
Although the wild leopard that barged into the home of a sleeping Sde Boker family on Monday is slowly recovering, he is quite old, and suffers from a stiff spine and joints, as well as infertility, according to a veterinarian who treated him at the Hebrew University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Beit Dagan.
Dr. Zahi Aizenberg, head of the hospital's imaging unit, lead the team that treated the leopard, estimated be be around 15 years old.
"He weighs only 26.5 kilos, but a male of his size should weigh 40," said Aizenberg, who has treated several leopards, most of them from zoos.
Only about 10 of the leopard species native to Israel have been seen recently here, said Aizenberg, "but there could be some more."
The leopard found at Sde Boker on Monday, near exhaustion because his joint problem prevents him from hunting wild animals, forcing him to feed on pet dogs and cats, has already been released at the Hai Bar animal reserve near Kibbutz Yotvata.
Aizenberg doubts he would be able to survive in the wild. "He hunted the pets because he couldn't catch wild animals on the run," he said.
The leopard entered the children's room at the Du Mosch residence in the middle of the night through a patio door left open to cool the house, attacked the family cat, awakened the dog, and then walked into the master bedroom of Arthur Du Mosch, 49, an immigrant from Holland who works as a nature guide.
Instead of shooing the leopard away - as Aizenberg said he would recommend to anyone not a veterinarian - Du Mosch caught the animal with his hands and held him, finally holding him in a plastic garbage can until Nature Reserve wardens arrived to take him to the veterinary hospital.
Aizenberg said the staff did not want to give the leopard a name, as he should not be regarded as a pet. Before being taken to the nature reserve, he underwent general anesthesia and blood and urine tests, ultrasound and CT scans. The wild feline was given food and an infusion for his dehydration, as well as treatment against worms, which may have caused him to be emaciated.
A scan showed that he had bones in his stomach, so he had eaten recently, probably a meal of pets. There is no treatment for his spinal and joint problems, said the veterinarian. "He probably has a few years left."