Farmers in India received a fright on New Year’s Eve when they discovered a leopard had fallen 50ft into a nearby well.
Footage released by charity Wildlife SOS shows the panicked leopardess being hauled to safety during a two-hour rescue in the western Maharashtra region.
Suvidha Bhatnagar, communication and fundraising officer at the charity, said: “In an attempt to chase a chicken, the leopard seemed to have overlooked the well and slipped inside.
“The ring of the well was also of a relatively lower height, owing to which the leopard mistakenly fell victim to the uncovered well.”
Farmers only discovered the distressed big cat in the morning and called the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre in nearby Junnar.
“Clutching on to a water-pump and pipe inside the well, the leopard was barely managing to keep her head above the water,” Bhatnagar added.
With the help of local residents, Wildlife SOS staff lowered a platform into the water to help the animal rest, followed by a trap box to lift her to safety.
“Almost grateful for a dry spot to move onto, the leopard jumped into the cage and was quickly lifted out of the well,” said Bhatnagar.
Wildlife SOS rescues “10 to 15” leopards from similar situations every year, she added, but around 1,500 wild animals have died after falling into open wells and water tanks in the last decade, according to the charity.
Leopards and humans are increasingly coming into conflict on the Indian subcontinent as the number of settlements increase and the amount of natural habitat shrinks.
Wildlife SOS monitored the seven-year-old leopardess from the well for eight hours before releasing it back into the wild.
“After conducting a through physical examination we concluded that it was healthy and fit for release,” said Dr Ajay Deshmukh, senior veterinarian at the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre.