A four-month-old male leopard cub succumbed to its injuries 5km from the Borivli gate of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) on Wednesday.
Forest officers found the cub around 2pm near the Shilonda trail, Krihnagiri Upvan Forest area, along with a dog’s skull and foot near the carcass. “This does not look like a poaching incident. The cub died because of natural causes when its mother was hunting down a deer. We took the carcass to the veterinarian’s office by 4pm,” said Rajendra Pawar, range forest officer.
Pawar added that officers analysed the scat of the mother leopard and identified her presence.
Veterinarians from SGNP said the cub severely fractured its rib when the mother was hunting down the deer.
“The leopard’s body had no external injuries but could not survive the impact during the hunt. It seems it received a blow on the left rib cage, which damaged its lung. The cub could not breathe,” said Dr Shailesh Pethe, veterinarian, SGNP.
According to the post-mortem report, the leopard had died more than 24 hours before the carcass was recovered. There was a breakage in the leopard cub’s ninth rib owing to which the animal could not breathe. Death was caused because of respiratory distress.
Vikas Gupta, the chief conservator of forest, SGNP, said, “It is not clear what had happened, however, the probe suggests that the mother was trying to hunt down a deer and in the altercation the deer’s foot might have hit the cub. But since they were unable to pin down the deer, they settled for a dog in the vicinity.”
Wildlife experts said the area near the Shilonda trail had a lot of dogs. “Dogs make up the maximum prey base for leopards and a situation like this is a possible 5 km within the national park premises as there are a lot of village establishments,” said Krishna Tiwari, founder, forest and wildlife conservation society.
Wildlife rescue groups said that the presence of stray dogs inside the leopard-dominant areas within the park needs to be addressed by authorities.