A leopard doesn't fare well in the wild without that trademark spring in its step. The big cat relies on being able to glide lightly on those soft paws while tracking prey in the tall grasses.
And yet somehow, a badly injured cub managed to survive long enough in Maharashtra, India, to tumble into the arms of human kindness in July.
He had lost so much more than the spring in his step. When rescuers from Wildlife SOS India found him, the animal was suffering grievous wounds — likely from clashing with another leopard.
A gaping wound along his neck had long become infected, and writhing with worms. But most concerning, 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 ailing cat to the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre. The facility, operated by Wildlife SOS, has had plenty of experience rehabilitating leopards — and, in fact, even managed to get one with similar nerve damage back on her paws earlier this year.
"The process of treating and rehabilitating an animal suffering from such conditions takes a lot of time and it can be very exhausting, both emotionally and physically," notes Kartick Satyanarayan CEO of Wildlife SOS in the release. "These are also highly rare — there aren't as many successful rehabilitation stories across the country as we would like to believe. Our vets and keepers did not leave the side of that cub even for a minute during the first few weeks."
What is becoming more common, however, are territorial disputes among leopards. Dependent on large swathes of land, the big cats are increasingly hemmed in by human encroachment.
Indeed, earlier this year, Wildlife SOS came to the rescue of a couple of sparring leopards, whose feud ended with them both tumbling into a deep well. Fortunately, the cats were able to put aside their differences and accept a little help getting out.
But the same will that kept this leopard alive in the wild may have also seen him through the long journey back to health — a journey that included daily massages, physiotherapy, assisted walks and nerve stimulating injections.
Slowly, the leopard began moving his front legs. This month, he stood up, having regained full control over those once-numb limbs.
"These animals have an incredible sense of self preservation, so there was never any doubt as to his recovery," explains Ajay Deshmukh, senior veterinarian at the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre. "We are very happy that the leopard is now healthy enough to be released into the wild where it can thrive."
You can watch this leopard's astounding recovery in the video below: