Actor Hema Malini had a wild visitor on Friday morning. A leopard from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) strayed into her bungalow at Dindoshi, Goregaon. But a two-hour search of the bunglow yielded no result and forest officials said the wild cat had escaped.
“We received a call at around 10am. Soon after, a rescue team rushed to the bungalow with tranquillisers and a cage. The search operation started at 10.30am,” said Sunil Limaye, director and conservator of forests, SGNP, adding, “After a thorough check, we found that the leopard had escaped.”
At the time of the incident, the actor was not present in the house. In fact, the leopard was spotted by a local security guard, who informed the actor’s neighbours and subsequently called forest officials.
“There is a small stretch of forest behind the area that leads to Aarey colony, which is the animal’s territory. So either it has gone back into the park or could be inside that stretch, waiting to move out once darkness descends,” said Limaye.
After it was confirmed that the animal was not present in the bungalow, forest officials searched the neighbouring area till 5pm. Four forest guards have been posted in the locality and the police have been informed to contact park officials if the leopard is spotted.
“Thankfully, the leopard escaped and saved itself the trauma of being tranquilised and being held captive in those tiny cages,” said Krishna Tiwari, project officer, city forests department of the Bombay Natural History Society, who has been studying the wild cats in the forests around Mumbai.
There are around 60 leopards in the national park.
Since January, this is the seventh incident when the animal moved out of its 100 sq km territory and was traced in residential colonies at Film City, Aarey Milk Colony, Dahisar, Borivli, Kandivli, Malad, Goregaon, Mulund and Bhandup.
“The leopards stray outside the park because dogs are easy prey. The civic authorities should start a sterilisation programme to ensure that the increasing dog population around the park is controlled,” said Sunish Subramanian, Plant and Animal Welfare Society.