Exhausted, Drowning Leopard Rescued From 70-Foot Well in Tense Video

An exhausted, drowning leopard has been rescued by Indian wildlife officials after it got trapped in a 70-foot deep well.

A farmer from a village in the Pune district of Maharashtra state found the big cat struggling to stay afloat after he approached the well to turn on the motor pump, according to conservation group Wildlife SOS.

A tense video of the rescue effort shows the 4-year-old female up to her neck in water, as the well continues to fill. Leopards are expert swimmers but they can become exhausted when trapped in bodies of water for hours at a time.

The farmer contacted officials from the Maharashtra Forest Department and Wildlife SOS. When they arrived, they embarked upon a "harrowing, two-hour long" rescue operation. Wildlife SOS confirmed that the leopard had been at risk of drowning because she was so tired from the ordeal.

The rescuers first lowered a wooden log into the well, for the leopard to hold on to for temporary support.

They then readied a trap cage and carefully lowered it into the water. In the footage, rescuers can be seen angling the open door towards the big cat. As soon as the cage reached the leopard, she scrambled inside.

A similar incident took place in Maharashtra state in February, with a male leopard rescued from a 50-foot well in Ahmednagar district.

A spokesperson for Wildlife SOS told Newsweek last month that leopards can fall into uncovered wells if they wander too close to villages. If unnoticed, the leopard may drown.

Forest officials think the female leopard got stuck in the well while out prowling for food. Wildlife SOS

After the incident in Pune, a range forest officer, VM Kakde, said in a press release that the district was a "leopard prone" area. Kakde added that the nocturnal cat is thought to have fallen into the well at night, while she was on the prowl for food.

The leopard was loaded onto the back of a Wildlife SOS vehicle and taken to the group's Leopard Rescue Center for a medical examination. She will be kept under observation for a few days until she has fully recovered, then released into the wild.

Kartick Satyanarayan, CEO and co-founder of Wildlife SOS, said in a press release: "Wells in most villages remain exposed due to lack of proper covers or boundary walls. It is not just leopards, a species protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, that are vulnerable to these open wells, but also several other species that may fall in accidentally, with potentially fatal results."

Wildlife SOS is currently working with farmers and forestry officials to cover open wells in order to prevent these types of accidents.

The 4-year-old leopard was neck-deep in the water and struggling to stay afloat Wildlife SOS