OPINION – Guwahati, Kamrup Metropolitan, India: As I read the news media daily about cats, I not infrequently read stories about leopards falling into deep wells in India. Fortunately, the animal is often hauled to safety with a lot of effort from local people. The only reason why leopards fall into wells is because there is no barrier around them. Or the well is partly hidden in undergrowth. It must be the case that these wells are not obvious to leopards otherwise they would avoid them.
The latest incident of a leopard jumping into a well occurred in north-eastern India. The well was 20 foot deep. The leopard had to survive in neck deep water for many hours before being rescued by locals and officials. It must have been a very difficult job to rescue this leopard. The leopard must have been frightened and therefore aggressive but they succeeded and released the animal into the wild which was a great outcome. We don’t see how they did it but a lot of people were involved. They must have successfully tranquillised the animal. That can be tricky. We don’t have any more information.
The point that I want to make is, why does this happen so often? It can only be because these wells are partly obscured and there is no barrier around them or over them which I guess makes them dangerous for people as well as animals. I think it’s time, in the interests of both animals and people, that a law was enacted to make it obligatory to put a barrier around a well. Perhaps there is a law in place already but a significant part of the population ignores it. I sense that the criminal law is poorly enforced in India.
Wildlife SOS, in an undated article, state that wild animals fall into open wells with alarming frequency. They say it is tragically common throughout India. The wells can be 60 feet deep and they lack any kind of markings. They are often open pits with no sign or fences around the rim. They might be dry or they might be filled with deep dirty water. If a person or animal falls into it they might be lucky enough to survive or they might drown in the water. I’m sure some leopards drown through exhaustion and starvation.
They state that the open wells in Pune are particularly dangerous to leopards, a threatened species. They began a petition to ask the District of Pune Collector to cover or fence of the area’s wells.
It isn’t just about leopards. Today, I read an article, chosen at random dated November 22, 2020, about an elephant rescued after falling into a well in an Indian village. The elephant had wandered into the village from a nearby forest because the well did not have a barrier and had been obscured by bushes. It was 50 feet deep.
The wells that I am referring to presumably supply water to the locals. However, I also notice that children fall down wells quite often. There is a headline from 2012 which reads “India’s Wells of Death”. It’s the story of a young girl who fell into an open borewell and died they believe of suffocation on her fourth birthday. It happened in the Gurgaon district of the northern state of Haryana. There was a massive rescue operation which failed but her body was brought to the surface.
I don’t think leopards fall into bore wells so I won’t go on about them but it does indicate that there is a lack of regulation because, as I understand it, they are illegal or sometimes they are drilled illegally.
The leopard has a hard time in India because of the increased potential for conflict with people. Leopard kill livestock and the farmers retaliate. Leopard end up in urban locations and are hounded by residents. And they often fall down hidden, unprotected wells.
SOME MORE ON THE LEOPARD: