Ashi faces big challenges to be wild again

The little leopardess stares at a phone I have mounted on a gorilla pod, the image is a screenshot from video I’m taking while trying to get Ashi to eat. It’s been a difficult couple of days since Ashi arrived at the isolated jungle refuge where at least she can listen to the birds, be visited by other leopards as well as maybe tiger and elephant. Rehab for an injured animal is so much about their mental state and for Ashi, suffering stress through separation anxiety, she constantly searches for her mother, I had to make a quick decision as to whether to imprint, a process I’ll describe in more detail next month but one in this case will keep her alive and give her a chance.

Deep muscle injuries sustained after a long fall into a canal have reduced Ashi’s mobility to not much more than a crawl and her spatial awareness is not what it should be for a leopard cub maybe 7 months old. Damage to teeth and canines is another issue.

There are signs to give optimism though. Ashi’s eyes are clear, she has managed to climb onto some tree branches I set up, her spirit is diminished but not broken, a couple of days ago I thought it might be but now I can see she is prepared to fight for her life. The next two weeks as Ashi adapts and understands will be crucial. This is going to be a challenge, we are coming into the hot season and we live in a world where support for leopards is very low but we will try our best. I’ve barely slept the last few nights while formulating in my mind the best way to go about Ashi’s rehab and hopefully a completely free life, the thing about leopards though is they are incredibly resilient animals, remarkable in so many ways, maybe Ashi can be a being to show that to more people who need to know. I have hope, I’ll update next month.

UPDATE: Sadly little Ashi passed away, she died in my arms after a very difficult last few hours of her life. Here at Bardiya National Park we don’t have the facilities to ascertain internal injuries in wildlife, it’s something I’m working with authorities on changing. I’m determined that Ashi did not lose her life in vain and that her legacy will be improved treatment for other injured leopards and wildlife.