Two leopard cubs shifted to rehab centre in Islamabad

Published February 28, 2024
The two leopard cubs Sultan and Neelo kept in an enclosure at the rescue and rehabilitation centre in Islamabad.
The two leopard cubs Sultan and Neelo kept in an enclosure at the rescue and rehabilitation centre in Islamabad.

ISLAMABAD: Prioritising safe rescue and rehabilitation of wild animals, two common leopard cubs have been transferred to the rescue and rehabilitation centre (old Islamabad zoo) by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department.

On Tuesday the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) invited the press to share the news. Roughly two months old, with scruffy fur and prominent rosettes, Sultan and Neelo gave out soft snarls and growls at the cameramen. Hiding behind their two caregivers inside the cage, the male and female cubs also hesitantly approached the fence of their enclosure to sniff the cameras.

“The cubs are in good health. They are already identifying the caregivers as parents. Once hand-raised it may not be possible to release them into the wild where they may not be able to hunt and survive on their own,” IWMB Chairperson Rina Saeed Khan said.

She hinted at the sufficient space available at the rescue and rehabilitation centre where a roomy enclosure could be built for the pair. Unlike Baboo the rescued exotic male Bengal tiger who has been transferred to a vast open sanctuary in South Africa, Rina Saeed Khan ruled out the option of sending the pair abroad.

Common leopards are indigenous to Pakistan – Margalla Hills and Galiyat – and the pair will remain here, she added.

The cubs were spotted in a bush in Jabri, a village in Haripur district, by gypsies who reported the sighting to the village council, Sub-Divisional Wildlife Officer, Haripur Wildlife Department, Mohammad Awais Khan told Dawn.

“We rescued the cubs as soon as the village council reported the news. The cubs were shifted to Abottabad and later to the only rescue and rehabilitation centre, Islamabad Wildlife Management Board,” he said.

Awais Khan and his team spent two to three days talking to villagers to establish the truth. It was not clear whether their mother was killed or if she abandoned her cubs. The wildlife official was indebted to the villagers for reporting to the wildlife department and extending cooperation to its staff.

According to the IWMB, it was not uncommon for big cat mothers to abandon their cubs.

“Once abandoned, cubs can rarely be reunited with their mothers,” Rina Saeed Khan said.

The IWMB has had a workable relationship with the provincial forest and wildlife departments. The two leopard cubs were not the only wild animals shifted to the rescue and rehabilitation centre for better care.

The Sindh wildlife department transferred monkeys by train to the IWMB. Two weeks ago the board had rescued a leopard whose teeth were broken and a paw fractured. The cub was shifted from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

“Unfortunately, the cub could not be saved and died of pneumonia three days ago,” Rina Saeed Khan said.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Senior Director Rab Nawaz told media that “sadly, most wildlife in Pakistan is no longer common, including the common leopards. They are endangered and after this its extinction”.

He said leopards fell prey to villagers and their cubs were put up for sale in the black market.

Nonetheless, the IWMB had worn team jackets with Second Chance, a group of volunteers that provide financial assistance to help rescue and rehabilitate wild animals into their natural environments.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2024

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