India: Leopard’s 120 km journey home
This is a story about a common leopard, in India, who was relocated to a new home, Malshej Valley, Malshej Ghat, Maharashtra, about 120 kilometers from his original home – Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai. The leopard’s name is Ajoba and a film was made of Ajoba’s decision to return home on foot passing through countless obstacles with potential for danger on both sides: leopard and human.
Returning home is typical of all cats wild and domestic. They have a territory with which they are familiar and they tend to return to it if relocated.
The film was based on fact but stand-in leopards were used for the film because Ajoba was killed on Ghodbunder Road, Haware City, by a vehicle, which is not that far from his destination. The journey back is shown on this map:
Ajoba passed away in 2011. The map shows where he was killed by a vehicle, just short of his goal.
This leopard’s journey has captured the imagination of the Indian public. There are two strange aspects to this story:
- The film ran into trouble because “shooting leopards on film is banned in India”. On the face of it this is strange. Can someone explain this? Perhaps “shooting” in this context means killing and it may encourage people to shoot leopards. However, I believe “shooting” means to film leopards so I can’t understand it.
- Also the fact that it was a film about a leopard was greeted with incredulity by some members of the Indian public because they can’t understand why this large wild cat should be saved and conserved. The people say:
‘They [leopards] harm us.’
And there, in that simple sentence, lies the root of almost all the problems. There is no place for big wild cats in modern society anywhere in the world. To be honest the leopard very rarely harms people. It steers clear of people. It normally only attacks people if it must for various reasons such as being injured.
Ajoba was relocated against his wishes. He bravely tried to get home. He was killed on the road like many domestic cats. Roads carve up a cat’s territory.
The film maker Sujay Dahake had to fictionalize the story because Ajoba was killed. Ajoba’s movements were known because he wore a GPS collar.
My Conclusions – failure
This is a sad story. The relocation failed. The cat’s attempt to get home failed – it resulted in his death. The film is meant to promote conservation but when local Indian citizens were asked they said they don’t really believe in conservation of the leopard – so that failed. There is no place for the leopard in India. The film maker probably was more concerned to make money than conserve wildlife. Sorry, but this is an all-round mess for me.
Original story (my thanks to Rudolph for pointing it out to me).