Simple cages make a winning rescue story
Oct 16 2013
I was with the forest department, when a leopard rescue team was formulated on the request of the state chief wildlife warden. Villagers were very cooperative but upset over the continuous leopard attacks as their peace of mind and security were at stake. We decided to install a cage in the area, in order to capture the marauding beast. These special wildlife rescue cages have two portions: a smaller section, where a bait is kept and second section, which is for capturing the wild animal. The second portion has a pressure pad, which causes the cage to automatically close once the animal’s foot falls on it.
Initially, the team used a live goat as bait to lure the leopard. But we found the goat was an extremely silent bait. Also, instead of the leopard, a villager was found trapped in the cage the next day! He had apparently come to steal the goat. So we decided to change the bait from a goat to a stray dog. But that too didn’t work because stray dogs outside would start barking, but the caged dog would keep silent to avoid the predator’s attention. So, after the tenth child died and the cage coming to no good, the forest department made a new, strong cage with the help of a local fabricator.
It took 15 men and five hours to move this heavy cage to the planned spot. This time, we used a dead goat as bait and placed scented incence sticks around it to attract the leopard. The leopard, too clever by half, came near the cage that night, but did not enter.
We then contacted an expert, Vidya Athreya, who had been working on leopards in Maharashtra, and sought her opinion. Athreya suggested we avoid scented sticks and any other human smells in the area. We followed her advice, and this time the leopard entered the cage. But then, it escaped because the door was too heavy and didn’t work properly. By this time, the 11th and 12th attacks had also happened, this time in Madhya Pradesh.
Now, the forest staff bought yet another cage. This time a light one made of iron mesh and plywood which just four persons managed to lift. The next day, the leopard walked into the cage and was finally caught and put in Bhopal zoo. Moral of the story, therefore, is that at times, simple, basic things make all the difference. The villagers breathed a sigh of relief, while we returned home with a story to share.
(The writer is a conservation biologist at Tiger Watch, Ranthambore)