The horrific charred remains of five leopard cubs cuddled close together have been discovered after a farmer set fire to a sugarcane field.
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The 10-day-old cubs died in Ambegaon taluka in the district of Pune in the western Indian state of Maharashtra after the unnamed farmer apparently believed there was a snake in a rubbish pile.
He set fire to the rubbish and the fire spread through parts of the sugarcane field, according to reports.
Forest officials believe that the cubs’ mother may have left them in the field when she went to find food.
Forest ranger Prajot Palve said that officials are carrying out night patrols to find the mother leopard in case she becomes aggressive while looking for her young cubs.
Meanwhile, farm workers are said to be too afraid to return to work in case the leopardess returns to the field and attacks them.
According to local media, deforestation has led to more leopards (Panthera pardus) delivering their cubs in sugarcane fields and they leave when the younglings grow up.
The forest department is investigating the cubs’ death and a case has been filed under the Wildlife Protection Act.