Wildlife experts blamed human encroachments on forest land and dwindling prey count for the cases of man-animal conflict in the city.
"Leopards are secretive animals that do not look to attack human beings. They stray into human settlements only for easy prey such as stray dogs and livestock," said Krishna Tiwari, wildlife expert and project officer at the Bombay Natural History Society's City Forest Initiative. "People should know that leopards are not man-eaters and rarely attack humans."
A study conducted by a group from SGNP in 2009 had revealed that a shift in dietary preference was the main reason for the animals to leave the wild and stray into human territory. "Scat (droppings) of leopards revealed that they now prefer livestock animals such as goats and cows to their natural diet of deer and wild boar," said Tiwari.
"The prey base for leopards in Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary has shrunk below the minimum viable population of large mammals," said Dr Bharat Bhushan, an environmental planning expert, who was also served on the state wildlife advisory board. "They, therefore, target animals that thrive in human territory."
A steady rise in human encroachments on forest land has only added to the problem. Forest officials blamed careless dumping of garbage for the problem. "The increasing garbage in localities attract pigs and dogs, which are common targets for the wild animal," said Sunil Limaye, director, Sanjay Gandhi National Park.