Forest dept traps Powai leopard, first since 2013 | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Forest dept traps Powai leopard, first since 2013

Forest officials added that they did not want to trap the leopard, but were forced to do so it visited the Supreme building in Powai repeatedly

mumbai Updated: Nov 13, 2016 23:40 IST
Badri Chatterjee
The cage in which the leopard was trapped on Saturday.
The cage in which the leopard was trapped on Saturday.(HT Photo)

A leopard was trapped in the cage set up near Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, around 5am on Saturday as part of a joint operation by the Mumbai and Thane forest officials. This comes a day after the trap was set up following reports of leopard sightings in the area.

The eight-year-old male cat has been shifted to Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) but has not been released into the wild.

Read: Forest officials set up cage to trap leopard at Powai

This was the first leopard-trapping incident in Mumbai after a male cat was trapped in Powai in October 2013, said forest officials.

The chief wildlife warden, Maharashtra cleared the plan after complaints from residents living near the abandoned building where the animal was seen. Around 700 people work in the information technology (IT) park, a few metres from the area.

“We left three chickens inside the trap to lure the leopard on Friday. Six forest officials were patrolling the area. The leopard visited the site twice on Friday, pulled out and ate two of the chickens,” said Kishore Thakre, deputy conservator of forest, Thane forest range, who led the operation. “On Saturday, the leopard entered the cage and got trapped,” he said.

SGNP veterinarians said the cat was aggressive and was being kept at a quarantined location in the park. “We subjected the animal to a medical test.The results are expected by Tuesday, after which, we will decide where to release him. The leopard has been kept in isolation. We will check on him,” said Dr Shailesh Pethe, veterinarian, SGNP.

Forest officials added that they did not want to trap the leopard, but were forced to do so it visited the Supreme building in Powai repeatedly. “A small bridge connected a hillock on the seventh floor of the building. The leopard would come from there. Over the past three months, we spotted scat and pug marks on different floors of the building,” said KP Singh, chief conservator of forest, Thane. “After observing that there was a threat to employees, we requested permission to trap the leopard,” he said.

Last week, a leopard was spotted in the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B) campus in Powai, near student hostels 7 and 9. Forest officials from the Mumbai forest range said they would trap it but decided not to after there was no second sighting. “We are conducting awareness sessions with students and security staff. A night-patrolling team has been deployed,” said Thakre.

He said the big cat at Powai was different from the one trapped on Saturday.

He added that there were more than 24 free-roaming leopards within SGNP and about eight to 10 in surrounding areas including Aarey Colony, Goregaon.

How to avoid a dangerous encounter

Be alert after dark, as that is when leopards are active. Put on music so the big cat realises you are not alone and avoids you

Do not move about alone after dark

If a leopard is sighted, stand still and allow it to move peacefully. Mere sightings do not translate into danger

Do not form a crowd around the animal

Ensure that garbage is disposed of and the locality does not have any feral dogs, which are easy prey for leopards

(Source: Sanjay Gandhi National Park)

Living with leopards

A study undertaken by SGNP in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) 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 the Aarey Milk Colony

Experts say

Experts said trapping the big cat was wrong. “If they release it far away from its home, it is likely to attack people there. The animal perceived this area as its home and did not bother anyone,” said Vidya Athreya, wildlife biologist. “There is lot of new work being carried out in Maharashtra with regard to leopards present in human use areas. Sadly, this is not institutionalised so old mistakes are being repeated. If this is not understood at higher levels, Mumbai will only see increasing conflicts with leopards.”

Chief wildlife warden says

“When a leopard sighting continues in an area for more than three months at a stretch, we o act on it. In this case, we received many complaints and it was only right to take preventive action before any untoward incident happened. We want to assure citizens that there has been no kills by the animal in a mega city such as Mumbai for years now. There is no need for panic but a need to co-exist,” said Shree Bhagwan, chief wildlife warden, Maharashtra.

Leopard killed at Murbad earlier this year

In August this year, forest officials shot dead a leopard which killed two people near Murbad, Thane, near Kalbhand village. The Thane forest division received permission from the chief wildlife warden to use any means necessary to stop the attacks.