This Hilarious but Thoughtful Comic Strip Tells the Story of the Leopard Who Became a Movie Star

You may have heard of Ajoba, the big cat that made its way across the Sahyadris to Mumbai in 2009. This true story was made into a Marathi film and Ajoba even has a Wikipedia page of his own. But you have never heard Ajoba’s adventure retold the way it is here, in the unique artwork of scientist Arjun Srivathsa. This is the second in his cartoon series (see the first one about elephants here).

Arjun Srivathsa is a 26-year-old alumnus of the graduate program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru. Art has always been an integral part of Arjun’s life. “I have been drawing and painting ever since I was a child. And now, studying wildlife and making wildlife-themed artwork are two things I enjoy the most. Following my training as a scientist, one reality that struck me was that Indian wildlife biologists have been doing exceptionally high-quality scientific studies, but a major part of what they find or discover is never communicated to people,” he says.

“Historical evidence shows that wild animals have always been present across our landscape. The people of the land traditionally incorporated wild (and domestic) animals into their traditions and lores. Unfortunately, the methods we use today do not build on these traditions but are based almost only on the philosophy of exclusion. For instance, although old and new evidence suggests that leopards can reside in and around settlements and with low levels of conflict, the current method to deal with this has been their removal from their territories and release into forested landscapes. This is done even though studies have shown they come back, and that vacant territories are filled by other individuals. More disturbing is the fact that these captured and stressed animals can attack humans near the site of release. Thus, our intervention, based neither on the biology of the species nor the way Indians have traditionally viewed wildlife, is only worsening the problem,” says Dr. Vidya Athreya.

The story of Ajoba teaches us some basic truths. Animals are not very different from humans. They also love their home. They always keep trying to return, no matter how difficult the journey is.

Here we share one such journey: The story of Ajoba.

One of the most amazing things about wild animals is that they never fail to surprise us. Just when we thing we know everything about them, they manage to play a card that trumps our knowledge. The journey of Ajoba the leopard is one among many such stories.

One of the most amazing things about wild animals is that they never fail to surprise us. Just when we thing we know everything about them, they manage to play a card that trumps our knowledge. The journey of Ajoba the leopard is one among many such stories.

 

Back in the summer of 2009, a leopard was chasing a village dog and both of them fell into a well. There was only one ledge in the well where people found the leopard and the dog sitting. One can only imagine the poor dog’s condition! The next day, the dog was rescued first and then began the story of ‘Ajoba’ the leopard.

Back in the summer of 2009, a leopard was chasing a village dog and both of them fell into a well. There was only one ledge in the well where people found the leopard and the dog sitting. One can only imagine the poor dog’s condition! The next day, the dog was rescued first and then began the story of ‘Ajoba’ the leopard.

 

Leopard biologist Dr. Vidya Athreya put a radio-collar on the big cat. She named him ‘Ajoba’ meaning ‘grandfather’. Thus, Ajoba became the subject of one of the most interesting scientific projects in the field of wildlife in India.

Leopard biologist Dr. Vidya Athreya put a radio-collar on the big cat. She named him ‘Ajoba’ meaning ‘grandfather’. Thus, Ajoba became the subject of one of the most interesting scientific projects in the field of wildlife in India.

 

The radio-collar on Ajoba’s neck helped the scientists track his movements. The bag of surprises started when everyone thought he would hang around in the forested areas but Ajoba went climbing up and down the mountains of Malshej Ghats.

The radio-collar on Ajoba’s neck helped the scientists track his movements. The bag of surprises started when everyone thought he would hang around in the forested areas but Ajoba went climbing up and down the mountains of Malshej Ghats.

 

As if the crazy trekking wasn’t enough, he swam across a 70 meter wide creek, something that nobody expected a leopard to do!

As if the crazy trekking wasn’t enough, he swam across a 70 meter wide creek, something that nobody expected a leopard to do!

 

The most curious thing about Ajoba was that he permanently lived among humans. He walked around in agricultural fields, village outskirts and highways. The interesting part is that no one knew there was a full-sized male leopard living in their vicinity.

The most curious thing about Ajoba was that he permanently lived among humans. He walked around in agricultural fields, village outskirts and highways. The interesting part is that no one knew there was a full-sized male leopard living in their vicinity.

 

Ajoba eventually walked all the way to ‘Bollywood Backyard’, the city of Mumbai. He was heading towards Sanjay Gandhi National Park in the heart of the city. Again, no one knew that this leopard was walking through industrial areas, housing societies and city streets.

Ajoba eventually walked all the way to ‘Bollywood Backyard’, the city of Mumbai. He was heading towards Sanjay Gandhi National Park in the heart of the city. Again, no one knew that this leopard was walking through industrial areas, housing societies and city streets.

 

After he settled down in the national park, the researchers tracking his movements realized that he had walked a total of 125 kilometers in 25 days. This kind of long distance movement was never recorded before!

After he settled down in the national park, the researchers tracking his movements realized that he had walked a total of 125 kilometers in 25 days. This kind of long distance movement was never recorded before!

 

In 2011, Ajoba met his end when a speeding vehicle ran over him on a highway.

In 2011, Ajoba met his end when a speeding vehicle ran over him on a highway.

 

So inspiring was Ajoba’s story, that he also became the theme of India’s very first feature Marathi film based on a scientific wildlife study. The movie titled ‘Ajoba’ portrays the journey of the leopard – the leopard who redefined our knowledge of large carnivores like himself.

So inspiring was Ajoba’s story, that he also became the theme of India’s very first feature Marathi film based on a scientific wildlife study. The movie titled ‘Ajoba’ portrays the journey of the leopard – the leopard who redefined our knowledge of large carnivores like himself.

The story of Ajoba was carried far and wide in newspapers, television news and the internet. The journey of the old leopard became an inspiring story for many. Ajoba, who lived among people, moved among people, also moved people. There will be other leopards and other journeys. There will be only one Ajoba.

The story of Ajoba was carried far and wide in newspapers, television news and the internet. The journey of the old leopard became an inspiring story for many. Ajoba, who lived among people, moved among people, also moved people.
There will be other leopards and other journeys. There will be only one Ajoba.

Pocket Science India is a venture to combine wildlife science with art, to promote conservation awareness in India. The cartoons or cartoon-series are mostly information from scientific journal articles, translated into art panels.

Interview by Parikshit Suryavanshi. Inputs by Nishi Malhotra.

Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: [email protected], or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter (@thebetterindia).

About the Author: Parikshit Suryavanshi is a freelance interviewer, writer and translator based in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. You can visit his blog to read more from him.

Like us to get inspiring news daily


Subscribe for awesome videos