No Wonder He’s All Smiles! Raju The Crying Elephant, Who Moved The World After Being Pictured In Tears When He Was Freed From His Chains, Is Welcomed To His New Home – By Five Females

It was the moment Raju the Elephant had waited a lifetime for – a family of his own.

In July 2014 the gentle giant, who captured the hearts of people from around the world when he cried as he was freed from chains after 50 years – joined five female Elephants at Wildlife SOS’s Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in India.

His new family, named the Herd of Hope, have all been rescued from barbaric treatment.


And poignantly, they flapped their ears – an expression of joy – before touching him with their trunks as they welcomed him.

Charity Wildlife SOS founder Kartick Satyanarayan, who led the rescue operation to save Raju, said: ‘We are delighted Raju has fitted in so well with the first family he’s ever had since he was orphaned by poachers as a calf.

‘He had been so terribly brutalized for 50 years that we feared he’d be unable to live with his own kind. He didn’t even know how to be an Elephant. But now it’s like he’s always been with them.

‘When we first released him, he held back, and he was clearly wary. Three of our female Elephants Laxmi, Chanchal and Sai Geeta ran up to him – their ears flapping wildly –a sign they were excited and delighted to meet him. They also made high-pitched trumpeting sounds – a greeting.



‘Then each of them touched him with their trunks, clearly reassuring him before they wandered off into the grazing land at our Elephant Conservation and Care Centre at Mathura. It was incredibly touching after all he’d been through.’

On July 4 this year the charity along with their counterparts in India saved Raju from dying in his bonds in a daring midnight rescue operation.

A  team of ten vets and wildlife experts from the charity were joined by twenty Forestry Department officers and six policemen to seize Raju in the Uttar Pradesh region.

Mr Satyanarayan said: ‘He’d been poached as a calf from the wild. Poachers either slaughter the mother, or they drive the herd into traps that are small enough only for the babies to fall into.

‘The mother cries for her baby for days after he’s been stolen – the illegal Elephant trade is sickening. The calves are then tied and beaten until they submit to their owners – their spirits are effectively broken.



‘Raju’s case was particularly tragic as we believe he has been sold again and again and might have had 27 owners – he’s been treated as a commodity and beaten into accepting his new handler every two years of his life.

‘By the time we found him he was in a pathetic condition. He hadn’t been fed properly and tourists started giving him sweet food items and because he was in a state of hunger and exhaustion, he began eating plastic and paper.

‘He had no shelter at night and was being used as a prop to beg with from dawn until dusk or being used for giving tourists joy rides. And most heartrendingly of all – the chains that cut into his legs had been there for 50 years. It was horrific.

‘It took us 45 minutes to remove the shackles that had torn into the flesh on his legs for the past 50 years – an act of unthinkable cruelty.

‘His legs were so covered in abscesses and his feet so damaged by walking on hard tarmac roads, that we have spent much more than expected on his medical treatment, and we still have a long way to go as he has a serious limp and open wounds.’



The Elephants Raju has joined have also suffered horrendously before they were rescued by the charity.

The second most recent member of the herd is eighteen-year-old female Laxmi, saved from the streets of Mumbai ten months ago. Although she was young, she suffered from severe arthritis, obesity and a heart condition.

Mr Satyanarayan said: ‘She’d been exploited and used as a begging prop, she was neglected and her owners had got her addicted to fried junk food.

‘When we saved her she was 1,200 kilos overweight and so fat we had to use a crane to get her onto a specially-strengthened truck to drive her to our centre. She was so huge her knees were giving way and she had early arthritis.

‘Our vets were concerned that she would not live much longer if she was not rescued immediately. But she has a great, if mischievous, character – even on the drive home her trunk kept sneaking through the window and she was searching in the driver’s pockets for a treat.

‘We have spent the last 10 months rehabilitating her – and at first it was a battle to get her to eat the food she should be eating. Now she’s finally getting healthier, leaner and enjoying being a free Elephant.

‘But although Wildlife SOS was given legal custody of her by the Forest Department, her previous cruel owners are petitioning the courts to get her back and so  now we are in a court battle to stop her being returned to the abusive situation we rescued her from.’


Chanchal, 16, was rescued on June 29, 2012, on the outskirts of Delhi after she and a second Elephant were hit by a speeding truck.

The second Elephant was killed instantly and Chanchal was left with cuts, shards of glass and wounds all over her body as well as a severely injured leg. She was undernourished and her owners were arrested for negligence.

Mr Satyanarayan said: ‘Her leg was fractured and it’s taken us 18 months to nurse her back to health. She’s slowly rebuilding her life.’

Sai Geeta was a circus Elephant who was rescued after she was made to perform for years with a broken right rear leg.

Mr Satyanarayan said: ‘She still has a terrible limp where the break was never treated – the fracture was severe and when we rescued her she’d suffered for years in pain as it was never allowed to heal as they never allowed her to rest.’


Finally Phoolkali, who is blind in one eye was smuggled illegally for years before the charity was alerted to her plight and immediately stepped in to rescue her.

Mr Satyanarayan said: ‘Phoolkali had spent more than 40 years of her life doing hard labour, being abused and being underfed. And her maltreatment and severe abuse by her previous owners caused her to be blinded in one eye.

‘Her owner would hide her in a windowless, deserted warehouse. Her owner would smuggle her across state borders in the dead of night to avoid detection by the authorities as he has no valid documentation for her legal possession.

‘She was frail and scrawny and almost skeletal in appearance and covered in sores and wounds.

‘Now she loves throwing mud on herself immediately after a long bath – much to the annoyance of her keeper – and also throws mud on him when he isn’t paying attention.’


Today the nightmare for Raju and his herd is a distant memory. And they are also enjoying a rehabilitation pool thanks to the generosity of donors to the centre.

Mr Satyanarayan said: :We are overwhelmed by the generosity of people from so many countries around the globe. We hope that if the donations continue, better facilities can be established for Raju and the other Elephants at the Centre who all deserve a better life to make up for the abuse they suffered all these years.

‘When we rescued him, Raju had never been in a pool before – and now he spends hours relaxing inside it. We’d like to thank everyone who donated – every penny has made such a difference to the quality of his life.

‘And while the pool is immensely pleasurable for him, it also is helping his rehabilitation as the water’s buoyancy enables him to take the weight off his legs which are incredibly painful from years of being shackled.

‘He still faces years of treatment to heal both the physical and psychological wounds. And sadly he’s not alone. We have a dossier of 80 Elephants whose life is in imminent peril and they also need to be rescued before they die of cruelty, exhaustion and abuse.’

Mr Satyanarayan said: ‘Our hope is that along with Raju, we can rescue many more of these tragic cases before it’s too late for them. It will enable them to taste freedom for the first time in their lives and live out their days in dignity, free from suffering and pain.’


Keep up to date at Wildlife SOS’s Elephant Conservation and Care Centre

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We believe EVERY animal should be treated with respect, empathy, and understanding. We raise awareness to protect and conserve wild, captive, companion and farm animals. It is vital that we protect animals against acts of cruelty, abuse, and neglect by enforcing established animal welfare laws and, when necessary, take action to ensure that those who abuse animals are brought to justice.

Protect All Wildlife are involved in many projects to protect animals’ rights, welfare, and habitats. Money contributed to Protect All Wildlife supports ALL of our worthy programmes and gives us the flexibility to respond to emerging needs. Your donations make our work possible. Thank you for your support.

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Incredible Moment Mother Bear Fights 500lb Male Before Fatal Plunge Down Mountain As She Defends Her Cub


The bear, who was seriously injured in north-west Spain while protecting her cub from a male attack, was found alive in a burrow near her cub.

The nail-biting footage shows the two bears fighting on the edge of a mountain cliff before plunging onto the rocks below them.

The bear who fought to protect her cub from an attack by a male in north-west Spain and was seriously injured was found alive in a cave near her cub

After a fierce fight, the two bears had fallen about a hundred feet, and the attacking male had not survived. In the Castile region of Spain, two hikers filmed a fight between a male bear and a female who was with her cub. These are rare images that two amateur videographers were able to capture on the foothills of the Palentina Mountain, located in the north of the province of Palencia in Spain.

The female, “located several weeks ago with two cubs, had recently lost one, probably due to an attack by this male or another,” said Nature Castile and León. According to a statement from the regional government, “technical staff, veterinarians, environmental officers, environmental protectors and Bear Patrols of the Natural Heritage Foundation” of the region, assisted by the Civil Guard, managed to trace the bear and its cub. She had escaped alive into a cave and was suckling her young. Using specialist camera probes and telescopic hooks, they then left fruit and water for them in the burrow.

Authorities also confirmed that the second cub in the litter had been killed by the same male three days earlier. Keep in mind that it is not uncommon for male bears to attack cubs that are not their own during the rut in order to mate with their mother to secure their own offspring.

With the collaboration of the Gardia Civile and the field staff of the Fundación Oso Pardo, the agents found his 217 kg remains in the field and brought him to a specialized centre to carry out an autopsy.


This kind of attack by a male bear on a female is not uncommon. In these cases, the bear seeks to kill the cubs.

“It is common for mothers to defend their young against attacks by males who seek to bring them back into heat”, explains the authorities on the social network Twitter.

Two to three days later, the female is in heat again and breeding can take place again.

In this corner of Spain, on the Cantabrian mountain range, nearly 330 brown bears are present, compared to 70 on the Pyrenees massif, on either side of the Franco-Spanish border.


The best places to see bears are in Somiedo National Park and the mountain slopes of Cangas de Navacea. April and May are the best times to see bears, including cubs, which have woken from hibernation


Protect All Wildlife

The Mission of Protect All Wildlife is to prevent cruelty and promote the welfare of ALL animals.

We believe EVERY animal should be treated with respect, empathy, and understanding. We raise awareness to protect and conserve wild, captive, companion and farm animals.

It is vital that we protect animals against acts of cruelty, abuse, and neglect by enforcing established animal welfare laws and, when necessary, take action to ensure that those who abuse animals are brought to justice.

Protect All Wildlife are involved in many projects to protect animals’ rights, welfare, and habitats. Money contributed to Protect All Wildlife supports ALL of our worthy programmes and gives us the flexibility to respond to emerging needs. Your donations make our work possible.

Thank you for your support and consideration.

The 2021 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards Have Just Announced Their Finalists And Here Are 40 Of The Best Photos

Born from a passion for wildlife, and decades of experience living & working in East Africa, The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards began its life modestly in 2015 as a photographic competition.

Since then, steered by its founders, Paul Joynson-Hicks MBE and Tom Sullam, it has grown into a globally renowned competition seen by millions of people every year, and always with wildlife conservation at its heart.

The free competition, open to wildlife photography experts and novices, celebrates the hilarity of our natural world and highlights what we need to do to protect it. From a surprised otter to a swearing turtle, Comedy Wildlife’s photographs transcend cultures and ages to bring a smile to everyone’s face.

Find out more about the Comedy Wildlife mission HERE.

#1 Time For School

Time For School

“A smooth-coated otter “bit” its baby otter to bring it back to and fro for its swimming lessons” Cleo Kee Teo.

Michelle Wood, who is part of the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards team said “The uniqueness of Comedy Wildlife compared to other photography competitions is the comedy aspect which can be a split-second decision to push the button at the right time,” she said. “We would probably say it’s a good idea to take your camera or camera phone with you whenever you are out and about, just in case that special moment arises,” she suggested always being ready to capture some amazing shots.

“And you have to be patient, very, very patient. Wildlife photography involves a lot of waiting around, Comedy Wildlife photography even more!! But the competition is free and so it is always worth entering your photo or video. By getting involved with the competition, even buying a print or calendar, you are directly helping us support our conservation charity and highlight our message, which is at the heart of the Awards.

#2 I Guess Summer’s Over

I Guess Summer's Over

“I was taking pics of pigeons in flight when this leaf landed on birds face” John Speirs.

#3 Ninja Prairie Dog!

Ninja Prairie Dog!

“When this Bald Eagle missed on its attempt to grab this prairie dog, the prairie dog jumped towards the eagle and startled it long enough to escape to a nearby burrow. A real David vs Goliath story!” Arthur Trevino.

According to Michelle, how the Awards decide on what charity to support each year depends on a variety of factors. “We look at a range of factors, including sustainability, reach, location, species, long term goals. Save Wild Orangutans is an amazing initiative, set up by the Gunung Palung program helping the local population live and work in harmony with the Orangutan population and their habitat. We all share this world and have to work together to preserve it. This charity aligns with our core conservation message and we will do everything we can to shine a light on their work, through coverage of the competition.” 

The Category and Overall Winners of the competition will be announced on the 22nd of October, and I can’t wait to see who takes the cake (and our hearts). In the meantime, the 2021 competition finalists will be exhibited at The Photography Show in Birmingham.

#4 Did I Say You Could Take My Picture?

Did I Say You Could Take My Picture?

“I followed this Ruby-Crowned Kinglet for about 15 minutes as it hopped from one branch to another in fast succession. I think it knew I was following it because, all of a sudden, it just stopped and stared at me for all of about 3 seconds!” Patrick Dirlam.

#5 Peekaboo


“I was photographing a group of goslings for a while when one broke away from the pack. It hid behind the leg of a bench for a few seconds before poking its little head out to say hello.” Charlie Page.

#6 Monday Morning Mood

Monday Morning Mood

“I took this shot while photographing a group of Pied starlings perched in a tree at the Rietvlei Nature Reserve in South Africa. It perfectly sums up my mood on most Monday mornings :)” Andrew Mayes.

The finalists include 42 images, plus the Portfolio and Video category entries. 2021’s shortlist showcases the biggest mix of animals seen in the competition so far. The Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards team notes that among the entries are a laughing vine snake from India, a trio of strutting Gentoo penguins on the beaches of the Falkland Islands, and a Kangaroo performing a picture-perfect Pavarotti impersonation in Australia.

In a press release, Paul, the co-founder of the competition, said that the team has been overwhelmed with the number and quality of the entries they received this year. A whopping 7k photos were submitted to the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards for consideration from every single corner of the globe.

“It was an amazing turnout, especially given the impact of the pandemic. The huge number of images we receive every year illustrates the appetite there is to engage with conservation and reminds us that wildlife truly is incredible and hilarious and, we must do all we can to protect it,” Paul said.

#7 Don’t Worry. Be Happy!

Don't Worry. Be Happy!

A Dragonfly early in the morning on a flower looks into my camera and it seems as if it laughing. The year 2020/2021 was very hard for everybody because of Corona. But when you go outside and watch carefully the Beauty of our nature, then problems seems to get less for me. So if I have a bad day this image make me give a smile back” Axel Bocker.

#8 Quarantine Life

Quarantine Life

“Isolated inside with your family eager to get out and explore the world? These eastern raccoon kits are too. Just when you think there’s no more room in the tree hollow, mother raccoon appears and displays just how compact the space is. The babies clambered all over their mom and each another, struggling to take a look at the exact same time.  This photo was taken in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. After exploring a particular area with numerous tree hallows, I identified it as a hot spot for raccoon families. Since raccoons will move from den to den, often not spending more than one night at a time in a particular den, locating an area with numerous options is key to locating the animals. I stumbled across this family and immediately worked on leveling the camera with the hole to prevent an upward angle. When the camera and tripod were ready, the baby raccoons were extremely curious (and cooperative), sticking their heads out for a closer look!” Kevin Biskaborn.

#9 Mr. Giggles

Mr. Giggles

“Grey seal pup appears to be giggling. I loved the expression captured. It looks so human-like.  I was lying on a rocky beach for hours, as motionlessly as possible, patiently waiting for seal life to unfold around me. This seal pup came onto the shore for a bit of rest and ended up sleeping on its chosen rock for hours before the incoming tide forced it to move more inland. Occasionally, it would stretch and yawn and it was one of the yawns that led to this expression, looking as if the seal was giggling.” Martina Novotna.

#10 See Who Jumps High

See Who Jumps High

Chu Ha Lin.

#11 Draw Me Like One Of Your French Bears

Draw Me Like One Of Your French Bears

“This young Kodiak Brown Bear sauntered down the riverbed and stopped across from me. She proceeded to start making herself a bear bed pulling back the sand with her gigantic claws. Once she had her bed just how she wanted it she laid down, rolled over on her back and started smiling and me! And she didn’t stop smiling! I would have to say she was the most provacative bear I had ever seen!” Wenona Suydam.

#12 Majestic And Graceful Bald Eagle

Majestic And Graceful Bald Eagle

“Bald Eagles will use the same nest for years, even decades, adding new material to it at the beginning and throughout the nesting season. Normally, they are highly skilled at snapping branches off of trees while in flight. Possibly tired from working nonstop all morning on a new nest, this particular Bald Eagle wasn’t showing its best form. Yes, sometimes they miss. Although this looks painful, and it might very well be, the eagle recovers with just a few sweeping wing strokes, and choses to rest a bit before making another lumber run.” David Eppley.

The photographer who took the overall best picture will win a one-week safari with Alex Walker’s Serian in the Masai Mara, in Kenya, as well as a unique handmade trophy from the Art Garage in Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania.

A panel of experts will judge the finalists, and it’s quite an impressive turnout! The panel includes wildlife photographers Daisy Gilardini, Tom Laman, and Will Burrand-Lucas, travel editor Neil Stevenson, TV presenter Kate Humble, actor and comedian Hugh Dennis, co-founder of The Born Free Foundation Will Travers OBE, Managing Director of Serif, developer of award sponsor Affinity Photo Ashley Hewson, ThinkTank’s Simon Pollock, image expert Celina Dunlop, Amazing Internet’s Andrew Skirrow, and Bella Lack, the “formidable ambassador for conservation.

#13 Operatic Warm UPS

Operatic Warm UPS

“The kangaroo looked like he was singing ‘the hills are alive, with the sound of music’ in the field.” Lea Scaddan.

#14 Dancing Away To Glory

Dancing Away To Glory

“A young langur sways its body to give an impression that its dancing.” Sarosh Lodhi.

#15 Attitude!!


“Males of these species of lizard chooses higher elevations to monitor their territory and display. Caught this particular male roosting on the twig of a bush during high heat summer.” Aditya Kshirsagar.

#16 Before And After Coffee

Before And After Coffee

“Baby Great Horned Owl shows human-like reaction as one wakes up before coffee and after having a cup. I was avidly watching the two cute owlets in the nest, hoping it would wake up and move. It took a pretty long time, as both babies were too sleepy and were nuzzling each other, sleeping with mouths open. When one finally started to stir, this is what I saw. It is too precious, half opening both eyes, opening one and finally both eyes looking like it was startled.” Nat Tan.

#17 Ouch!


“A golden silk monkey in Yunnan China – this is actually a show of aggression however in the position that the monkey is in it looks quite painful!” Ken Jensen.

#18 We’re Too Sexy For This Beach

We're Too Sexy For This Beach

“I was lying on the beach during a stretch of fair weather at Volunteer Point in East Falkland, just waiting to capture a Gentoo Penguin jumping out of the surf to land on the beach.  To my delight, a trio emerged from the water and walked straight in my direction.  I really enjoyed photographing this moment as it seems to capture some sassy personality displayed by these individuals” Joshua Galicki.

#19 The Butt Dunk / The Face Plant / The Shake Off / The Final Scratch

The Butt Dunk / The Face Plant / The Shake Off / The Final Scratch

“An elephant expresses his joy in taking a mud bath against the dead trees on the shores of Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe on a hot afternoon.” Vicki Jauron

#20 How Do You Get That Damn Window Open?

How Do You Get That Damn Window Open?

“This raccoon spends his time trying to get into houses out of curiosity and perhaps also to steal food” Nicolas de Vaulx.

#21 Laughing Snake

Laughing Snake

“Vine snakes are very commonly seen snakes in western ghats of India. When approached they show aggression by opening their mouth wide open. Nothing to scare of this beautiful harmless Vine snake.I was happy to find it and smiling and  It looks like he was smiling back at me.” Aditya Kshirsagar.

#22 Smoked Deer For Dinner

Smoked Deer For Dinner

“I have been following the family of a tigress called Paaro in India’s Jim Corbett National Park for many years. This is her daughter who has stood on her hind limbs to be able to scratch her face with a log. But, it appears as if she is carrying the log on her shoulders.” Siddhant Agrawal.

#23 Let’s Dance

Let's Dance

“Two Kamchatka bear cubs square up for a celebratory play fight having successfully navigated a raging torrent (small stream!)” Andy Parkinson.

#24 The Green Stylist

The Green Stylist

K Gurumoorthy

#25 Flautist


“I spent my days in my usual “gopher place” and yet again, these funny little animals haven’t belied their true nature.” Roland Krenitz.

#26 Foot Jam

Foot Jam

“There is a great big pine tree with a small to medium sized hole in it near my house where a young racoon has called this home for the past year. Well this year it appears that the little racoon has outgrown it’s tiny home as it barely fits!” Brook Burling.

#27 Directing Penguin

Directing Penguin

“Two Gentoo penguins having a discussion after coming out of the surf” Carol Taylor.

#28 Monkey Riding A Giraff

Monkey Riding A Giraffe

“During a game drive we found a group of monkeys playing around with each other, jumping up and down from a bare branch.It was a joy to watch. After a while I saw a giraffe coming from the right. By the moment the giraffe did pass the branch, one of the monkeys was on his post to ride the giraffe :-)” Dirk-Jan Sttehouwer.

#29 Treehugger


“This Proboscis monkey could be just scratching its nose on the rough bark, or it could be kissing it. Trees play a big role in the lives of monkeys. Who are we to judge…” Jakub Hodan.

#30 Are You Talking To Me? / Big Smile / Fluff / Lol

Are You Talking To Me? / Big Smile / Fluff / Lol

“While trying to make proper pictures with flash I visited two groups of wild horses for two years. Every now and then they didn’t try to eat my flashes or run over the stands and they posed for me.” Edwin Smith.

#31 Shhhh! I’m So Hungover It Hurts

Shhhh! I'm So Hungover It Hurts

“Burrowing owl youngsters are so amusing to watch.  This burrowing owl caught my eye because he looked like he a hangover.” Anita Ross.

#32 The Photo-Bombing Wave

The Photo-Bombing Wave

“Polar Bear mom and cubs frolicked in the icy waters of the Arctic.  They kept dipping under the water and once came up together with this amusing pose.  A tender moment is shared by mom and one cub while the other photo-bombs with a wave to the onlookers.  Or, it sure looked like a wave…..” Cheryl Strahl.

#33 Yes, I Did It

Yes, I Did It

“A frog climbed a flower from a plant, and when he made it to the end he laughed celebrating his success” Dieky Oesin.

#34 Leaning Post

Leaning Post

“A young cub decides to use his patient mother as a leaning post, the birds in the trees requiring closer inspection” Andy Parkinson.

#35 Peek-A-Boo


“I was photographing a group of goslings for a while when one broke away from the pack. It hid behind the leg of a bench for a few seconds before poking its little head out to say hello.” Pal Marchart.

#36 Cotton Eyed Joe

Cotton Eyed Joe

“Ever seen a grizzly bear square dance? Just need a jug, some spoons and a banjo. Gets ‘em every time”. Rick Elieson.

#37 Welcome To Nature!

Welcome To Nature!

“A red damselfly welcomes us into the world of macro nature. It was so amazing to see it climb up the straw, and pause at the intersection to say hi! :)” Mattias Hammar.

#38 Sweet Lips Are For Kissing!

Sweet Lips Are For Kissing!

“This picture was taken at Curaçao, Dutch Caribbean.  Usually box fishes are difficult to take pictures of, since they do not have a problem of a diver coming close, but if you show interest, they always turn the back and not the face to you. That’s why I tried to swim 0.5m above the fish and showing no interest at all to him. The same time I had my camera not in front of me, but below at my chest pointing to the bottom. When the right moment had come, I turned the camera 90 degrees to the front and just point and shoot, hoping to have the fish in focus. Never expected to have its beautiful lips that close!” Philipp Starr.

#39 Just Checking

Just Checking

“A male Vervet Monkey was hanging around a bridge over the Luangwa River in South Luangwa National Park looking for some action (handouts from passersby).” Larry Petterborg.

#40 Missed


“Two Western Grey Kangaroos were fighting and one missed kicking him in the stomach.” Lea Scaddan.


Advance science has no explanation for some of the mysteries of nature. An unprecedented strange relationship between a wild leopard and its prey -the cow observed in Antoli village in Vadodara district in Gujarat was one of such unbelievable mysteries.

The Unlikely Bond Between Predator And Prey

The story begins in the summer of 2002. The leopard sightings were reported regularly from Antoli, a village about 20 km. away from Jambughoda Sanctuary and 40 km. from Vadodara city. In Antoli, a female leopard had chosen to litter in a sugarcane field, surviving on pigs, rodents, Indian hare, domestic dogs, birds, large frogs and the like, with the occasional goat thrown in for good measure. The irrigated agricultural fields had tall crops most of the times, providing adequate hides, linkages with nearby ravines, and easy movement of the big carnivores. As every part of the forest is heavily grazed, the leopardesses do not find safe hide and move in deeper part of sugar cane field for safety of their cubs. Infact, sugar cane fields contribute significantly for reproduction of the leopards. Sometimes leopardess moves far away from the forest boundary to select such field in the villages for littering.

By September 2002, the complaints began to pour in thick and fast. As a result, the forest officers decided to do something to address the problem of the villagers. People from Antoli village reported that a leopard with a cub was seen frequently in the evening and night. Such complaints were normal in the region where man-animal conflict was common due to increase in the leopard’s population and absence of prey base in their habitats. In fragmented habitat or food scarce area, the leopard shift location and move away from original habitat to nearby area for some period to harvest food available in particular season. In such a situation, the Department avoided capturing the harmless animals. When complains reached the Forest Minister at Gandhinagar, the author was asked by the minister, Daulat Singh Desai to investigate the matter. After consulting the Chief Wildlife Warden, it was decided to capture the animal from the area. The trap cage with a live bait was arranged at a suitable site by the staff. First photo record with video was recorded by Manoj Thaker, a naturalist from Vadodara. The range forest officer, forester, Rohit Vyas, Honorary Wildlife Warden, Manoj Thakar, nature lovers from Vadodara and their friends spent several nights in the village and trapped the female leopard successfully at about 2 O’clock at night on 20th September 2002 and released it into a nearby forest in the early morning.

Is The Leopard About To Pounce On Its Prey?

The villagers witnessed trapping of the leopard and had a great relief but were unhappy as they lost an important guest with whom they had developed an intimacy. Also, the leopard was economical to them as they had a high crop yield because the cat’s presence in the village would protect damage of crop at night from jackals and wild boars.

 A month later the complaints began to pour in again. The villagers believed that the leopard caught was probably the mother of a young leopard that roamed the area. When the forest staff and wild lifers visited the village, they came across a story so strange that the author refused to believe it at first. The village was dominated by Patel, an upper caste community, and lower caste inhabited at the fringe of the settlement, as normally found in the Indian villages. A family belonging to backward caste lived in the fringe of habitation with a cow, a buffalo calf and two bullocks. The animals in the open field in front of the house had open access from agricultural fields from three sides. The elder of the family, about sixty years old, observed a leopard coming near the cow every night where both had a fearless interaction. He doubted first day but was surprised to see their behaviour next day. When he narrated the event, nobody believed his story. Subsequently, people witnessed an unnatural drama every day.

The author was told about this story by the Range Forest Officer and Rohit Vyas but did not believe till he witnessed the drama on 17th October. The old man narrated interesting observation that every night the leopard would draw near to a particular cow, which has body colour similar to leopard, in an open field in the front of his house. The two animals would approach each other at very close proximity and seemed to all intents and purposes to be interacting, without any aggression on the part of the leopard, or fear on part of the cow.

The cat and its bovine friend ‘met’ and, exactly as the villagers had stated, seemed totally at ease with each other. There were two bulls and a buffalo calf in the field, which were pointedly ignored by the leopard, but they were not at ease as the cow.

 The story of the unlikely friendship spread like wildfire and people from other villages started coming to witness the phenomenon. The roof of a nearby pucca house was the best vantage point to witness the two strange friends. People said they could approach the two from a distance of less than 10 m, provided no camera flashes were set off. The wildlife lovers and photographers routinely began visiting the village, photographs were taken, and the matter reported dutifully to forest officials.

The Bond

leading English daily even published the story on the front page, borrowing its headline from the title of a Hindi popular film, Ek chhoti si love story! (A small love story). But everyone was not quite comfortable with this situation. The elders in the village did not fear the cat, but worried that it might harm a child in the event of an encounter after dark. They did not want it harmed, but certainly wanted it taken away. People in Delhi also started asking their reporters about the news, but full truth was never published, except in an article written by the author in the Sanctuary Asia magazine published from Mumbai. A team of a news channel passed a whole night to film the drama, but the cat did not give any opportunity. The village became famous; people had no fear from the leopard. Several people, including the Chief Wildlife Warden, Pradeep Khanna visited the village and witnessed the strange behaviour during this period; the Forest Department decided to trap it by arranging cages in the village.

Just when the story had attracted so much attention, the leopard disappeared for about a week. When it returned though, naturalists were on hand to document the relationship on film. Every night, normally between 9.30 p.m. and 11.00 p.m., the leopard would approach the cow from the surrounding fields. The cow would usually raise its ears before the cat’s arrival, seemingly detecting its presence from a distance. Village dogs too would bark to announce the leopard’s imminent arrival. And when it did arrive, the cat would first observe the surroundings from a distance, then move closer to the cow, rub the body with the cow and gently sit near it. At times it could be heard making a low gurgling sound that was difficult to describe, but certainly seemed submissive in nature. The two animals would often butt each other playfully with their heads. Once the cow seemed annoyed and actually pushed the leopard hard with its horns. At this the leopard merely moved closer and resumed its gurgling!

 The cow would sometimes lick the cat on its head and neck. Indeed, to many observers, it seemed that the cow was behaving towards the leopard as she would towards her own calf. On occasion the leopard, its suspicious nature still on display, would find excitable humans, including photographers, uncomfortable and it would slink into the shelter of the fields. All night vigils revealed that five to six trips a night were normal and on one night she returned as many as a dozen times.

 The author spent a few nights to enjoy these strange things happening there. One night, he reached Antoli at nine o’clock along with Rohit Vyas, Manoj Thaker, Tadvi (RFO) and other people. He fixed his camera in a hut where an old man slept. His chair in the hut was at about 10 metres away from the spot where the cow was sitting. The cow was young with a good height and reddish brown in colour with a white belly. Barring black spots on the leopard, the colour of the cow was not much different from the big cat. The author waited in the hut for over an hour and the old man started snoring while having a sound sleep. The man had observed the behaviour of the leopard for about two months’ time and knew everything. He said before sleeping that the leopard normally comes at about 10 o’clock but sometimes earlier also. The electric supply went off when we occupied over position. After some time, there was some disturbance and we saw the leopard just sitting beside cow when torch was flashed. The leopard moved away in darkness. The light was flashed in the direction which was normally opted by the leopard for arrival. The author saw the big cat sitting on heap of paddy grass. Out of two bulls, one was tied between cow and paddy heap where leopard sat comfortably. The behaviour of the bull was different. It remained standing, attentive and breathing heavily looking at the leopard. The big cat just ignored the attentive action of the bull which kept on standing in a tense mood. For the bull, the leopard was unwanted and dangerous, although it was not as violent as a bull would normally become in the presence of a leopard. Perhaps, after observing behaviour of the two friends, the bull had less fear. The cow kept on sitting fearlessly; the leopard again came close to the cow, rubbed the body with her and sat beside it just like a calf normally sits close to her mother. The author came out from the hut and went on the roof to see both the drama. At night at about 2 O’ clock it was decided to return to Vadodara when the leopard disappeared in the darkness. In the next visit of the Chief Wildlife Warden, the events were photographed.

After a few days, the two photographers had developed a perfect understanding about the arrival of the leopard. Sensing the presence of human beings, sometimes a crowd of over three dozen, the cat coolly moved close to the cow. Many times they played with their heads and then sat close to each other. It is very difficult to explain the communication between them in words. The cow received the big cat like her calf that had come near the mother to get affection. The leopard sat close to the cow, sometimes joining her body and sometime below the mouth and neck of the cow. In most of the cases it was like a sub adult cat sitting with mother. Sometime, the leopard used foot to get cow in standing position. After passing some time, the animal used to disappear in the field in the darkness, perhaps due to the disturbance of the photographers but came back after some time. The relationship between the leopard and the cow grew which was never observed or reported in the past. Many time both played with their heads. The cow licked leopard several times, sometimes very heavily covering entire head and neck.

 During the observation from November to January, the staff employed two cages at strategic locations with baits inside. Because of the strange behaviour of the leopard, goat, dog, puppy, hen and even meat were tried as baits but leopard did not enter the cage to kill the animals, although it inspected moving around the cages. The mission of capturing the leopard did not yield any result. It was finally decided to capture the animal using a tranquilizing gun, but the animal stopped coming to the site before the plan was operationalized. In the meantime, I again visited the site with the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWW) on 2nd December and stayed there over the night to see the drama, but the leopard did not visit the spot. One day before the visit, people of the village had a cultural programme with drums and songs at the site at night. Probably this event disturbed the leopard as visits were not regular after the disturbance. I observed the behaviour closely again with the CWW on 31st January. On 20th December the leopard injured a goat in the cage from outside. In December and January, people reported that plenty of puppies disappeared at regular intervals from villages as winter was a season for abundant newborn dog pups. God knows, it might be a harvest season for our leopard.

 With observers now almost permanently positioned, we came to learn that the leopard visited the cow continuously from October 8 to 22 and then from November 4 to 29. For some reason, between November 30 and December 29, the leopard stayed away. But it was seen in the vicinity. Then in the third week of January, the leopard seemed to vanish but visited again in the last week of February and stayed with the cow till early morning. Attempts to capture it in November and December proved futile, the wary animal steadfastly refusing to enter cages set out with baits, though it once tried to kill a goat from outside the cage. After over a week of regular visit, the cat again disappeared in February but returned for one or two days in first week of March. Reports from villagers indicate that the animal also visited neighbouring villages to procure food, mainly dogs.

 Nature lovers maintained contact with the villagers to collect fresh information. But the leopard did not return to the cow for reasons not known to anybody. Few months passed but nothing was heard, except indirect evidences of the leopard visiting the village occasionally. People believed that two leopards occasionally visited the village in 2004 but it was difficult to say whether one of them was the same leopard. Once a leopard killed a cow in the village and ate partly. Perhaps it had become a mature large cat and got a mate somewhere, but nothing could be confirmed.

 So, what is this all about? How come a predator and prey behaved in this incredible way? There have been many varying interpretations for the strange behaviour. Some suggest the female leopard captured in August was the mother of the sub-adult female we had observed, though from the photographs, she does seem fully grown.

At Peace With One Another

We know least about the habit and behaviour of these animals; even we are not fully aware about some of the mysterious behaviour of human beings. I could not understand why the leopard regularly met the cow and behaved in a manner which was not believed by people. It was more surprising to me that why a cow accepted its enemy and loved like she loved her calves. The author believes the young leopard may have been affected by the absence of its own and somehow detected some maternal qualities in the cow, which would have reassured her and helped her cope without her own mother.

 P.M. Lad, ex Chief Wildlife Warden of Madhya Pradesh, who had spent his entire life with tigers and leopards, was surprised to know the fact. His wife had kept a tiger cub at her residence which became an adult from there. Lad again explained the view of his wife that the cow was probably imprinted on the young leopard at a very early age, prior to its hunting instincts having emerged and matured. This may have led to the unusual relationship, since the cow too perceived no threat at all. It is likely that the cow had never encountered a leopard before and did not therefore ‘know’ that the two were meant to be sworn enemies.

 No one will ever perhaps be able to state with confidence, just what the truth was, but it is clear that the behaviour of both cow and leopard was strange and downright unbelievable. And then of course this is India! People more knowledgeable than forest officers and field biologists insist that the two animals had shared a close relationship in their previous births. Some priests hinted at a supernatural relationship. But nature is not telling us anything. Nature is full of surprises; there may be some missing link and we know little about it. Who knows about the truth? But such an unbelievable and unprecedented event was worthwhile to mention in this article/blog for future benefits of the people.

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