The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) at Borivli supports twice the number of leopards that the 103 sqkm forest can optimally support.
According to wildlife experts, a leopard needs an average space of 10 sqkm each. So, while there should be 11 or 12 animals in the forest, the Borivli national park houses 21. But, despite the large leopard population, apart from a few stray incidents, there has been little conflict with humans, according to the Mumbaikars for SGNP report released on Thursday.
"This means that there is a possibility of one or two leopards being either injured or with some other problems, which may have led to the attacks on humans. But, the good news is that there is no conflict," said Vidya Athreya, wildlife biologist at the Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bangalore, and principal investigator, who was part of the year-long project that started in September 2011.
According to the report, Aarey Milk Colony, which is spread over 12.8 sqkm, is a problematic area as leopards stray there because of the availability of easy prey such as dogs and pigs.
Cattle carcasses in Aarey also lure leopards and there have been instances of the animals walking into the adjoining Royal Palms recreation and residential area.
According to the assessment of the dog population at 65 spots in Aarey, there are 700 dogs, which means 57 dogs for every sqkm. A leopard preys on one dog a week.
With availability of easy prey outside the forest area, the leopards do not attack the healthy prey base of deer and sambars, though these animals are present inside the national park.
"At present, survival of the fittest is not the norm in the forest. Leopards, both healthy and weak, easily get their prey in the form of dogs and do not feel the need to fight and compete with each other for food," said Sunil Limaye, director, SGNP, explaining reasons behind the present leopard population.
The peak of attacks was witnessed in 1997-1998 and 2002-2004 with 24 and 84 attacks respectively, after which 32 instances of leopard capture were reported. Athreya said that trapping of the animal and releasing it into another place worsens the conflict. "Previously, the SGNP was the home for a leopard trapped anywhere. The practice was stopped in 2006 and the conflict has hence decreased," said Athreya.