The leopard that was captured on CCTV cameras attacking a dog in Goregaon last week — and later being chased away by another — may not have strayed into the residential society from Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP). The big cat possibly marked the area as part of its territory, said forest officials and wildlife experts on Saturday.
They added that even if leopards frequent human settlements bordering the national park, there is little to fear as they hardly ever attack humans unless provoked.
On March 3, CCTV camera footage showed a leopard attacking a dog inside an apartment complex at Goregaon. The dog, however, not only managed to thwart the assault but also attacked the big cat when two other dogs joined it and chased the leopard out of the complex. The incident had taken place at Girikunj Society at Dindoshi, adjacent to national park.
The video had gone viral on social media and caused panic among residents who live near SGNP. Officials from the forest department and members of Mumbaikars for SGNP — a group of wildlife experts and enthusiasts — said they received several distress calls from citizens after they came across the video. “We told residents on Sunday that leopards have been known to roam around the area bordering SGNP. Spotting them in residential areas does not mean that a man-animal conflict will follow,” said Sunetra Ghoshal, a member of Mumbaikars for SGNP.
“Leopards here have learnt to coexist with humans. Though they visit areas of human habitation, they avoid contact with residents most of the time,” said Dinesh Singh, assistant conservator of forests.
He said CCTV cameras and camera trapping are two methods Mumbaiites can rely on to find out if there are big cats in residential areas. “Leopards are usually shy and do not attack humans if they are left alone. They may, however, retaliate if provoked,” said Singh.
“Thirty five leopards live in 100 square kilometres of SGNP. There are sufficient number of animals within the national park for the big cat’s food but leopards, whose territory includes the park’s bordering areas, often opt to feed on stray dogs that are found in large numbers near these areas. The dogs make for easier prey,” said Dipti Humraskar, member of Mumbaikars for SGNP and wildlife expert.
Mamta Vyas, 53, a resident of Highland Park said she was initially terrified of leopards when she moved to Mulund three years ago. She added that she would spot them in and around the housing society. However, forest officials gradually helped her understand that leopards generally keep to themselves and do not attack humans.
“I once spotted a leopard and two of her cubs playing near the society. They neither tried to enter our home nor harm us,” Vyas said.