An early morning venture turned into a life-threatening scare for one young lioness in western India’s Somnath village.
The two-year-old cub fell into the well around 4 a.m. on July 8 when locals used an alarm to scare the lion’s pride away. Anil Kumar, a local freelance journalist who captured the subsequent rescue efforts on video, said that lions frequently stray into this village at least two or three times a month, and villagers try to chase the predators away so they don't attack their cattle. (Watch “Elephant Rescued After Being Swept Out to Sea”)
Four other lions were spotted with the cub when it attempted to jump across the opening of the well, but once villagers began gathering near the site, the other members of the pride ventured into the nearby forest.
Roughly 500 of these endangered Asiatic lions, also known as Indian lions, live in India, all in a single population in the state of Gujarat, in the western part of the country. Cases of lions dying by falling into unguarded wells are not uncommon there, and efforts are in place to barricade wells in local areas.
Initially, only a field worker who lives nearby knew that the lioness cub had fallen into the well. He informed other villagers around 7:30 a.m., and Kumar reached the spot shortly after. (Watch “Villagers Save Drowning Leopard in Dramatic Rescue”)
“It was a very sad moment for me to see the lioness cub in such a situation, struggling for life,” Kumar said.
The cub treaded water for hours before a large group of people gathered near the 80-foot well, desperate to help, Kumar said. Because the depth of the well prevented locals from rescuing the animal, villagers alerted the wildlife department for assistance. (Watch “This Is What Happens When a Lion Steals a GoPro”)
To retrieve the cub, a rescuer was lowered to the bottom of the well in a metal cage. He lassoed a loop across the lioness' shoulder so that it could carefully be pulled up, and once out of the well, it was placed inside her own cage. The rescue process, Kumar said, took almost two hours.
“Once the cub was brought up from the well, everyone looked very happy and relieved,” Kumar said.
After the six-hour operation, the lioness was transported to the Sasan Gir Animal Care Center. There, it was treated for minor injuries before being released back into the forest.
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