A 54-year-old woman died after she was ambushed by a leopard in Waghachi Wadi village in Murbad taluka of Thane district on Friday evening.
According officials from the Thane forest range, Mirabai Vare was in the rice fields adjacent to a forest. “The leopard was hiding in the fields. Owing to less light, she did not notice the cat,” said Kishore Thakre, assistant conservator of forest, Thane. “The animal pounced on her and bit her neck. The body was dragged over 100 metres from the area where she was attacked.”
Thakre added that when the family members realised that Vare was missing, they went into the fields to search for her. The noise probably scared the ambush hunter after which it ran away, leaving the body. “The leopard did not eat the body after attacking it. The animal was spotted near a poultry farm nearly two kilometres away soon after the incident,” Thakre said, adding that it was looking for another prey.
A post-mortem conducted by the forest department on Saturday identified claw and teeth marks on the victim’s neck and back. Officials added that the area was frequented by two-three leopards and cattle attacks have been reported this year. “However, this is the first case of an attack on humans,” said Thakre. “We asked the panicked villagers to keep their animals in safe locations in the evening.”
The family of the deceased was given a compensation of Rs1 lakh by the forest department.
Pune-based wildlife biologist Vidya Athreya said that such incidents are likely to continue because leopards are being trapped due to public pressure and released in areas where attacks on people can happen. “The area where Friday’s attack took place is close to the administrative boundary of another district. We had submitted an action plan to the state government last August regarding this problem and suggested ways to mitigate it, but it has not been implemented yet,” she said.
While there have been no incidents of leopard attacks in Mumbai since 2011, villagers in Junnar, Pune, have seen regular conflicts with leopards, some resulting in deaths in the past two years.