For starters, why did the cub, now called Lakshmi, need to be rescued ? There were two theories going around when I visited the forest during the Christmas week of 2007.
To view a video made using photos of the cub, click here.
How did the cub get abandoned? One, a mother leopard had wandered into a village with three of here cubs. Fearing for their safety, the villagers tried to drive away the animals with stones injuring Lakshmi. The mother fled with two of her babies, unable to take Lakshmi with her.
The other story going around, told to me by a local guide Kamal, is that the mother tried to jump a ditch clinging Lakshmi between her teeth, and dropped her in the process. Unable to take her along, she abandoned the cub and left.
Is the future one of confinement? Whatever the truth, the cub is now being taken care of forest officials. While they may be doing a good job of it, their love may actually have already proven detrimental to Lakshmi’s future which may be confined to a zoo or a circus. These are some of the reasons being given by those in Rathambhore who can claim to be a bit knowledgeable about this topic:
- It may already be too late for Lakshmi to learn the way to survival in the forest even though she was only a few weeks old in December.
- The most dangerous of animals, unless they turn man-eater, never attack human beings except in self-defence. But Lakshmi is getting to interact with a lot of people – including daily visitors like me – which is taking away the fear of humans from her. In other words, she can attack any species now if left in the wild; they are all the same to her.
- Could this have been avoided? Yes, if she was kept in an big closed space away from human contact except her immediate caretaker. And allowed to hunt for small animals within this enclosure initially and eventually left in the jungle. But her being made a spectacle for all may have already proven too late for her.
Do you feel for Lakshmi? I am sure we all do.