Nothing douses the fires of conflict quite like copious amounts of cold water.
For a couple of angry leopards in India's Maharashtra state, the conflict ran deep. The cats, according to a press release from Wildlife SOS, recently got into a spirited scrap over territory.
The dueling cats, both males, inflicted each other with multiple wounds before they tumbled 50 feet down into an uncovered well.
And there, it seemed this feline feud would come to the most tragic of endings. The waist-deep water was high enough to swallow them both.
Luckily, they put their feud aside, at least for the moment, and shared a slender ledge at the side of the well. It just barely kept them above the water.
Even more luckily, the cries of the leopards in distress, echoed upward and outward across the sugar cane fields, awakening a nearby village to their plight.
Officials from the state forest department and rescuers with Wildlife SOS raced to the scene — a trek of some 30 miles along precarious rural roads.
In Maharashtra, India's second most populous state, the sight of a leopard at the bottom of a well isn't as surreal a scene as you might expect.
While leopards are a protected species across the country, urban development and poaching have increasingly driven them to more populated areas.
"The startling, increasing rate of habitat encroachment has resulted in decreasing prey base, territory and water sources for predator species like leopards that are then forced to come out into human habitation," Wildlife SOS co-founder Kartick Satyanarayan explains in the release.
"Since these elusive cats usually prefer to move around at night, it is common for them to fall victim to uncovered wells."
In this case, the leopards, shivering on that narrow ledge, waited about three hours for the rescue mission to unfold: A cage was lowered into the well. And, while one leopard padded eagerly inside, the other — almost as if to suggest sharing a box with his enemy was the final indignity — needed a little coaxing.
At last, they were both heaved upward — carefully lest the skittish cats be further traumatized — to the cheers of the crowd that had gathered to watch.
The leopards, freed from their plight, will share their space a little longer as Wildlife SOS staff monitors them at the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre.
"They bear wounds from their earlier scuffle, but we have not detected any internal injuries," Ajay Deshmukh, senior veterinarian at the facilities noted in the release. "They are both exhausted and in severe shock because of the ordeal and will be kept under observation for a few days till they are deemed fit for release."
But soon, the big cats will return to their stalking grounds. And perhaps, having learned to put aside their differences in the face of danger, they might know each other as friends in the future.
Or at least, a couple of leopards who have been through a lot together — and benefited from the compassion of strangers.
Watch the complete rescue mission in the video below: