Rescued leopard cub almost healed, to be released soon

Published July 8, 2024
IWMB Chairperson Rina Saeed Khan speaks to mediapersons in Islamabad on Sunday. — White Star
IWMB Chairperson Rina Saeed Khan speaks to mediapersons in Islamabad on Sunday. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) on Sunday evening opened the gates of the zoo to introduce the media to a female leopard that was rescued near Muzafarrabad and brought to the rescue and rehabilitation centre (former Islamabad zoo).

The IWMB staff led small groups of media persons into a room where the leopard, almost a year old, was kept in a cage. Crouched in one corner of the cage, her face buried in the straw bedding as if ready to pounce. “She is recovering and is in good health now as 70 per cent of her tail has healed,” said the chairperson of Islamabad Wildlife Management Board, Rina Saeed Khan, at a press briefing at the rescue centre.

Two days ago, the wildlife staff had saved an injured female leopard cub. The rescue operation was conducted with the cooperation of the Azad Kashmir Wildlife Department. News footage captured the dramatic rescue, showing the leopard perched atop a tall tree and a wildlife official climbing to bring her down.

The cub had, however, lost half its tail, which vets at the zoo believed was cut after being caught in a snare. Ms Khan said the centre was in touch with Four Paws, an international animal welfare organisation, and wildlife experts from South Africa to ensure the rescued leopard got proper care.

The rehabilitation centre is the only facility in the country where rescued animals are brought. Recent additions to the zoo were a deer and two kites. The deer was abandoned by its owner but is ready to be released in the wild. The injured kites might take longer to recover.

However, IWMB would keep the rescued leopard cub for another four to five days before releasing her into its natural habitat. IWMB had earlier hoped to release the cub on Monday. “The vets want to make sure that the cub is fully recovered before she is set free,” Rina Khan informed the media. Experts believed that she could survive in the wild as her mother seemed to have taught her how to hunt.

Rina Khan also requested the government’s support and the much-awaited funds to construct a bigger enclosure for the two rescued leopard cubs a few months ago. Sultan and Neelo were only two months old when they were brought to the rescue centre. They were possibly abandoned by their mother and unable to survive on their own; now the centre is their permanent home.

“However, the cubs are growing and in a few months will need bigger space to move freely. There is plenty of space at the rehab to build a larger enclosure for the cubs. It can only happen if there are sufficient funds for the project,” said Rina Khan.

As a last resort, the cubs might have to be sent abroad to bigger wildlife sanctuaries where they could live comfortably. In the past, the zoo was forced to send Kaavan, the loneliest elephant in the world, and two Himalayan brown bears to bigger and better sanctuaries in Sri Lanka and Jordan, where they are spending their retired lives in comfort.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2024

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