London: An orthopaedic doctor from Andhra Pradesh, who was based in Ukraine when the conflict broke out with Russia, has appealed to the Indian government to help rescue his pet jaguar and panther left behind when he was forced out of the war zone.
Dr Gidikumar Patil, known as Jaguar Kumar after his unusual pets, says his topmost priority is to save the life of his “precious cats” – Yasha, a male rare ”lep-jag” hybrid between a leopard and jaguar, and Sabrina, a female black panther.
The 42-year-old was forced to leave them behind with a local farmer when he left Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, a hotbed of the conflict in the region, in search of alternate sources of income.
With the Indian embassy in Kyiv unable to help, he said his message for the government of India would be to help him through his “conundrum”.
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“My humble message is to immediately consider and rapidly act to fix this conundrum with the best possible solution, keeping in view of the exact current situation of the cats and an emphasis on their immediate safety,” Patil told PTI from his refuge in Warsaw, Poland.
“My feeling staying away from my cats is too intense; at times depression, wistful reminiscences of those fond memories and apprehensions about their well-being and fate overall,” he said.
As a Ukrainian citizen, Patil was working in a now bombed hospital at Svavtove in Severodonetsk when the Russia-Ukraine conflict broke out in February this year.
He had acquired his two unusual pets from a zoo in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv around two years ago and has been devoted to them ever since.
Through his YouTube channel with over 62,000 subscribers, Patil has been streaming updates of his curious life with the big cats as pets over the past few months and says his dream project is to receive enough funding for a breeding project to help protect the endangered species. In fact, it was these videos that protected him from the Russian onslaught on his way out of Luhansk as they proved his neutrality in the conflict.
Patil was forced to leave home in Ukraine with a bag carrying his clothes, USD 100 and a few thousand roubles in cash. He had exhausted all his savings and sold part of his farmland, two apartments, two cars, his motorcycle and camera for a little over USD 100,000, the BBC reported.
After the war began, he spent up to USD 300 feeding his cats – some 5kg of meat (mostly chicken) – every day. As the situation worsened, Patil decided to leave the cats with the caretaker, cross the border, earn some money and return. He had kept enough food to last three months in the freezer for his cats and paid the caretaker USD 2,400 as three months of wages, it said.
For the safety of his pets, Patil says he is open to any solution that any friendly country is willing to offer – whether it is closer to their current home in neighbouring western Ukraine or somewhere in Europe or India.
“The principal issue is whether I can continue authorised access to them, which is crucial as this actually is a serious project. I’m not sure of the wildlife rules and legislations in India, whether they will permit it,” said Patil.
“I’m pretty hopeful it works out, but first they should be moved to relative safety by the governments with immediate and effective action. Basically, the fundamental concept of raising these remarkable cats is to procreate these ‘panther hybrids’ by persistent breeding until they sire the desired hybrid, perhaps the first in its kind, which would then be raised and perpetuated into the wild,” he said.
Given the “imminent danger” the animals are in the conflict zone, the doctor says his foremost concern remains the “rapid safe evacuation of my highly beloved cats”, with the other aspects of his project to be pursued in the future.
As a middle-class man, the animal lover has exhausted most of his savings to feed and care for the big cats. From updates he has from the local farmer now looking after them in Ukraine, it would seem the bond is mutual as they are reportedly pining for him too.
Patil is from Tanuku in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.