Srinagar: Mohammad Shafi Bhat vividly remembers his first brush with death when he took on a leopard barehanded to save children in Khag village of Budgam.
He was working as an electrician when a leopard entered the village and tried to maul the children in 2014.
Unmindful of his own safety, he pounced on the wild animal with just wire and a tyre tube. After a close-quarter fight, he captured the animal much to the delight of villagers.
“I was 28 by then and working as an electrician. I had never thought that someday I will encounter a leopard and capture it. That incident was a trigger that I could do it. Now it has become a passion to capture wild animals on loose before releasing them in jungles,” Shafi said.
Born Mohommad Shafi, he attained nom de guerre of Shabir Bhat. Soon after he started researching wild animals to hone his skills.
Shafi later changed his profession and started working as a helper with the wildlife department. “I am a matriculate. An electrician by training, I used to double up as an artisan. Now my interest is more in wildlife. I want to carry forward my passion,” he said.
From leopards to Black Himalayan bears and from snakes to civet cats, Shafi has rescued many animals in central Kashmir. An expert rescuer, Shafi has so far saved 20 leopards and five bears.
“It is a risky job. But I know the behavior of wild animals. The experience has brought me closer to nature. I know how creatures behave in certain situations. It gives me pleasure to rescue a leopard or bear,” he said.
Shafi is running a Facebook page
Wild Frame and YouTube ChannelShabir Animal Expert’. In many of his videos, he can be seen armed with a tranquilizing gun. He can be seen carrying a tranquilized leopard on his shoulders.
Shafi, who works as a helper in the wildlife department is awaiting regularization. “I wish I would be regularized so that I could carry out the mission with added zeal,” he said.