The forest department has rejected a proposal by the Mumbai police to trap free-roaming leopards in Aarey Milk Colony in Goregaon. The police requested this after a child was attacked by the big cat last week at Aarey Colony.
However, the forest officials told HT that the request has been rejected as lack of awareness is leading to such man-animal conflicts and trapping is no solution.
A survey undertaken by Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India from December, 2014 to April, 2015 found 35 free-roaming leopards across 140 sq km, including areas outside SGNP, the Nagla forest block across the Vasai Creek, and Aarey Milk Colony. Leopards are protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972.
On March 20, at 9pm, near unit 17 of Chafyachapada in Aarey Colony, a three-year-old boy was attacked by a leopard. His mother then attacked the leopard and saved her child. The child sustained injuries.
In a letter to the forest department by the senior inspector of Aarey police station, which HT is in possession of, the subject read, “To trap free-roaming leopards within Aarey Colony that have attacked children.”
“From the past few months, residents have spotted free-roaming leopards near Royal Palms, Kelte pada, unit 17 Aarey and surrounding forest-like areas. Even cops on night duty have been frequently spotting them in Aarey. In the past, leopards have hurt many children and women. They have dragged away livestock, pets and birds,” read the letter.
Details of deserted roads that pose a threat to residents during the night across different areas of Aarey were also mentioned in the letter. “There is panic among the tribals who were repeatedly demanding that leopards be trapped. To protect everyone, we request the forest department to trap the leopards as soon as possible,” the letter said.
The letter was also marked to additional municipal commissioner of the ward, Aarey chief executive officer, assistant commissioner of police, Dindoshi and deputy police commissioner zone 12 north region. “With a rise in man-animal conflicts, we only suggested that the forest department take necessary action and trap the leopard who poses a threat to Aarey residents,” said Kirankumar Chavan, deputy commissioner of police, zone 12.
Forest officials said if a leopard is trapped and relocated, another animal from SGNP may take over the abandoned territory. “We will be writing to the Aarey police and informing them the issue needs to be properly addressed. Capturing leopards is not the solution as it is violation of WPA and several other measures to protect residents, including clearing garbage that attract dogs (main prey base of leopards), need to be cleaned and awareness drives conducted,” said Santosh Kank, range forest officer, Mumbai. “Forest department is doing its best to address the issue like regular patrolling, interaction, awareness, camera trapping and even compensation to recent victim.”
The letter came a week after Shiv Sena MLA Ravindra Waikar suggested that leopards frequenting the area need to be trapped.