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A rare friendship between two leopards in Maharashtra

Leopard Ganesh who is blind in one eye grooms his best friend Vitthal who lost the use of right hind paw

There are true stories of inspiring friendship between human beings and now here is one which reflects the same bonding between animals. The two are male leopards – Ganesh and Vitthal – currently residing in Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre in Maharashtra, run jointly by Maharashtra State Forest Department and Wildlife SOS.

Ganesh was rescued in 2011 from a severe human-animal conflict scenario as he was brutally attacked by a hostile mob which left him grievously injured and battling for his life. At the Centre his severely infected left eye was operated upon. Meanwhile, the right eye developed a cataract, permanently impairing his vision.

Ganesh Leopard
Victim of human-animal conflict, leopard Ganesh is blind in one eye

Vitthal the other male was the victim of a deadly wire snare trap set up by poachers. Rescued in 2009 from a small village close to a dense forest in Maharashtra, he was gravely wounded. The NGO’s veterinary team managed to save him but he had permanently lost the use of right hind paw.

It was not possible to release both in the wild and so they were kept at the Centre where they were introduced to each other and they immediately struck friendship and now have become inseparable having spent over a decade together.

Vitthal Leopard
Vitthal who is the best of Ganesh

They can be spotted walking in their spacious field and playing with olfactory enrichments like basil, flowers and leaves. Together they climb platforms designed at a convenient height and strong enough to accommodate both. They also groom each other to keep clean. Interestingly, grooming is a sign of trust, affection or protection.

Talking about the duo, Kartick Satyanarayan, Wildlife SOS CEO said: “Ganesh and Vitthal are a rare example of a deep bond between two adult males. In the wild, two male leopards will not bond with each other due to their natural tendency of being territorial.”