Amrabad Tiger Reserve: The excited chatter was replaced by the silence of the jungle. Deep in the Amrabad Tiger Reserve, a group of about 30 people waited for the big moment that was in the making for the past five days.
A young male leopard, caught in Shadnagar area of Hyderbad this past Mo-nday, was about to taste life in a real forest.
The evening was acquiring a slight chill and it was getting darker by the minute in the valley chosen to release the leopard. A film crew engaged by the Nehru Zoological Park was busy setting up cameras to catch as many shots as possible from different angles and once everything was ready, everyone present was instructed to get into the assortment of jeeps, SUVs and other vehicles. As a cloak of silence enveloped the jungle, the only noise came from the creak of a tree branch over which the rope tied to door of the trap cage in which the leopard was brought here from the Nehru Zoological Park.
As the preparations were on with people milling around the zoo’s animal resuce van in which the cages were carried, the leopard made it known that it had had enough. A few loud growls that sounded like roars of a tiger made many take an involuntary step backward. “This is a big male, almost as big as a young tiger,” the zoo curator N. Kshitija said.
Once everyone was safely in vehicles or standing on them well out of the way of the direction in which the leopard was expected to take, the rope was pulled lifting the door of the cage. It first appeared that the leopard took a languid leap down but it was deceptive with the animal disappearing to the bamboo thickets laced jungle in a flash. The silence was punctured by two loud whoops from a forest guard, apparently making sure that the leopard did not turn and come back. After all, a slew of cameras were positioned to catch the best possible shots of the big cat’s run to freedom with the forest department engaging a professional film crew to record the event and these had to be retrieved.
Also on the cards was the release of a second leopard, this one rescued from wire snares in Nalgonda district last week. “We chose the spots to release them carefully. Both locations are near water bodies. And have a very good prey base,” DFO Achampet M. Joji explained as people began getting back into their vehicles. Supervising the release was the Amrabad Tiger Reserve Field Director A.K. Sinha as well as Nehru Zoological Park curator N. Kshitija.
“Both leopards were well fed already so they will not be under pressure to hunt at least for a couple of days as they get familiar with their new surroundings,” Mr Joji said.
The two leopards were released in locations about 20 km away from each other. The sprawling tiger reserve has room for more leopards in addition to the 100 plus that already live in it. “The tiger numbers are also rising.
We have some cubs and young ones now,” Mr Sinha said....