A leopard does not do well in nature without that characteristic elegance in its step. The big cat is confident that it can glide lightly on those soft paws as it tracks prey in the tall grasses.
And yet, somehow, a seriously injured cub managed to survive long enough in Maharashtra, India, to fall into the arms of human kindness in July.
He had lost much more than elegance in his step. When rescuers from Wildlife SOS India found it, the animal was seriously injured, probably from confronting another leopard.
An open wound along his neck had long been infected and was writhing with worms. But most worryingly, the 1-year-old cat had suffered nerve damage that left him unable to move his front legs.
In a press release sent to MNN, Wildlife SOS described how staff, working with the state forest department, decided to send the sick cat to the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Center. The facility, operated by Wildlife SOS, has had a lot of experience rehabilitating leopards and in fact even managed to recover one with similar nerve damage to its paws earlier this year.
"The process of treating and rehabilitating an animal suffering from such conditions is time consuming and can be very exhausting, both emotionally and physically," says Kartick Satyanarayan, CEO of Wildlife SOS in the statement. “This is also very rare: There are not as many rehab success stories across the country as we would like. Our vets and caregivers didn't stay away from that puppy for even a minute for the first few weeks. "
However, what is becoming more common is land disputes between leopards. Depending on large areas of land, big cats are increasingly surrounded by human invasion.
In fact, earlier this year, Wildlife SOS came to the rescue of a pair of fighting leopards, whose dispute ended with the two falling into a deep pit. Fortunately, the cats were able to put their differences aside and accept a little help to get out.
But the same will that kept this leopard alive in the wild may also have seen him through the long journey back to health, a journey that included daily massages, physical therapy, assisted walks, and stimulating nerve injections.
Slowly, the leopard began to move its front legs. This month, he stood up, regaining full control over those previously numb limbs.
"These animals have an incredible sense of self-preservation, so there was never any question about their recovery," explains Ajay Deshmukh, lead veterinarian at the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Center. "We are very happy that the leopard is now healthy enough to be released into the wild where it can thrive."
You can see the amazing recovery of this leopard in the following video: