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.

Ajoba leopard

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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:

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Ajoba passed away in 2011. The map shows where he was killed by a vehicle, just short of his goal.

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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).

12 thoughts on “India: Leopard’s 120 km journey home”

  1. No words can truly describe how I feel towards these loathsome acts.
    What can we do? I’m still naive yet constantly learning in my attempts to reach outside of my ‘glass menagerie’ and try to take action. My naivete’ gets in my sometimes, but I’m learning. For instance, below I’ve given two links for ‘bigcatencounters.’ I had to key in a couple more words to find the first link:

  2. This is incredibly sad – if they had him on GPS why didn’t they go and get him before he was run over. Argh this is so horrible I can’t stand it.

    • Agreed. A lack of real concern and in truth exploitation. People don’t really care. They don’t even care enough about the tiger, the supposed most popular wild animal in the world.

      • You hit the nail on the head…. people don’t care!!!

        I’ve been in many a discussion with people in Indonesia, Taiwan and China in reference to posts I have made on deforestation and total destruction of habitat for the Leopard Cat and I was frankly met with hostility that I am American and must not want their land to prosper and advance. They are poaching the cats from the wild, so many dying in horrible conditions and they say if they don’t, they will die anyway as there is no place for them. I do not understand this lack of compassion for other beings and the greed of man. Do they not realize if we destroy all of the land and resources and all of the animals…. it will result in our eventual destruction as well????!!!!

        I would have like to have seen the movie done…. but the truth told about what happened to this leopard who fought to get home. It should not be a happy, feel good movie as the story is far from happy and we should not feel good about it. We need a serious wake up call!

        • Thanks Skye. The truth is that humans, taken as a whole, are stupid. That is: humankind is stupid and messed up. We are incapable of looking long term. We are incapable of looking out for other animals as we are obsessed with self-interest. We are happy to use animals or abuse them if that is what it takes to feed our self-interest and arrogance.

  3. This is so very sad, poor Ajoba taken away from all he knew and determined to return, almost home, then killed.
    Another life lost to human interference with Nature.
    R.I.P Ajoba, you are out of this world of man’s inhumanity to other species.

    • Too many people, not enough space for the large wild cats who need a hell of a lot of space. Far more than people realise. The male leopard probably needs about 30 square kilometers as a home. One male and male ranges don’t overlap.

  4. Michael, you have described the “AJOOBA” tragedy better than the film script and that too from your computer/Internet sitting in London! Excellent write-up from the information i provided you and thanks to “Mid-Day” newspaper, a local Mumbai tabloid through which i sourced this article.Most of the viewers and readers of “P.O.C” are from the Western World and most must have never ever visited India let alone the concrete jungle called Mumbai(Bombay).The “Sanjay Gandhi National Park” situated within Mumbai has a small wild leopard population, the only city in the world having a natural wild-life park within its geographical precincts.Its akin to having wild cougars in New York’s Central Park or Wild cats in London’s Hyde Park, such is the unique geographical position of the sanjay Gandhi National park withing the city of Mumbai.Due to the ever expanding population of Mumbai city there have been an increase of housing on the precincts of the national park, especially slums.Since the last decade there have been man-eating incidences and hence the leopards that stray out of the park are trappedd and re-located as was the case of “AJOOBA”.Hope the national park is preserved with its leopard population as relocation could reduce their numbers ultimately leading to total extinction of the leopard in the World famous “Sanjay Gandhi National Park” of Mumbai.The most famous example of gradual extinction of a wild species in India happened at the World famous tiger park of Sariska in Rajasthan.One fine day the authorities suddenly woke up to the fact that there was not a single live tiger in Sariska park, all being killed by poachers over the years.Hope the same fate doesn’t happen to Mumbai’s leopards of Sanjay Gandhi national Park.

    • Thanks Rudolph. I think if we are brutally honest, the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is an anachronism. It is out of time and in the wrong place. At one time it must have worked but with increased human population it cannot. It is also too small to accommodate the large home ranges of the big wild cats.

      I presume by the way that it is not fenced in? Could you confirm that.

      • Michael, the “Sanjay Gandhi National Park” is not fenced in many parts, impossible to totally fence.Part of the park has the main Mumbai-Gujarat Highway passing through it known as the “Thane Ghorbunder road”.Today, this locality has plush housing complexes on either sides of the highway situated in-between the National park. Leopards occasionally cross this highway to go onto the other side of the park and hence meet with accidents as did “AJOOBA”. There is a bizarre sign on this highway that reads something like this as i don’t remember the original signpost “Beware of Leopards crossing, Drive Slow”.I wonder how long the leopards in this small national park will exist as they have to overcome many environmental conditions, including territorial space as leopards require large ranges.

        • Thanks for that insight, Rudolph. The leopard so precious and endangered as I understand it. Why don’t they build a tunnel or bridge for the cats to use to cross what is probably a busy road? Roads are ery danegrous for cats, even the wild big cats. Rare Florida panthers are killed in the same way in Florida.


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