Residents of Charandevpada of Aarey Colony in Goregaon blamed the forest department for the rise in incidents of animal attacks. They said that officials do not patrol their area regularly.
“A year-and-a-half ago we pleaded with the forest department to lay traps and catch the wild cats. They gave us a cage in response,” said Santosh Godse, a resident. “We laid traps and caught two leopards in Unit 25 and handed them over to the national park. This is not our responsibility.”
Gulab Singh, 28, a cowshed owner who has been living in the area for the last six years, said, “It's an everyday occurrence. Less than a fortnight ago, a leopard attacked a young woman on a morning walk.”
The forest department said they did not have enough manpower. “The area is massive and we only have six to seven foresters. So, officers can't patrol one area all the time. We also have the additional duty of protecting mangroves,” said RK Pole, chief conservator of forests (Thane division).
Police said that increasing encroachments in the region have led to the man-animal conflict. “Our jurisdiction covers at least 1.74 lakh people between the Aarey check naka and the Powai toll plaza. And most of these people are unauthorised dwellers as only cowshed owners, their employees and tribals are allowed to stay in this area,” said an official from Aarey police station, requesting anonymity. He added that trapping the animals is not a solution. “This is their natural habitat and they roam around freely. If the increasing encroachment goes unchecked, there are obviously going to be more situations when people come in direct contact with the animals.”