Wednesday, April 22, 2009

India: Did plan help reunite leopard cubs with mother?

Big cat pitch pays off in Chamba village
22 Apr 2009, 0347 hrs IST, Anand Bodh, TNN

CHANDIGARH: Out on a routine mission to fetch fodder for his cattle, Angrezo, a lean man of wiry build, did not have big cats on his mind. And when
he encountered one outside his well-stocked cowshed, he was least prepared for the rendevouz. Nor was the wild cat; for both bolted — in opposite directions.

While the 40-year-old Rajour resident sprinted towards the village, merely 5 km from Bharmour town of Chamba district, the leopardess disappeared into the greens hemming the shed. She left behind a litter of two cubs, which Angrezo discovered soon after when he returned along with suitably armed villagers. "They were only a few days old, probably four or five," he said.

In these days of mounting man and animal conflict, the villagers did something which could wow any mother. As the big cat stayed away, they adopted the starved cubs and made forest officials pitch in. "We approached the divisional forest officer (wildlife) and on her suggestion began feeding the animals diluted boiled cow milk," DFO (territorial), Bharmour, E Vikram told TOI over phone.

As the days stretched and there was no sign of the feline returning, officials cordoned off the area three days later. "The idea was not to make the leopardess feel hunted. Even the PWD department suspended road construction work in the neighbourhood so that the family could be reunited."

Their collective efforts paid off. "The cubs were gone on Monday, probably in the company of their mother. A fresh mud patch boasting of pugmarks suggested as much," a jubilant D R Kaushal, divisional forest officer, Chamba, added.


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