Acting on complaints from Ghodbunder Road residents on leopard sightings and the big cats feeding on their pets, the Thane forest range, in consultation with Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) officials and volunteers, installed camera-traps on Friday.
Special workshops were also organised for residents of Ovala, an area where leopards are frequently spotted. KP Singh, chief conservator of forest, Thane forest range, told HT that the residents have to realise there is no need to panic. “We have strategically placed two camera-traps that will enable us to understand how leopards enter the residential areas from protected forests. We will monitor their numbers, if they move in a group and also their frequency,” he said.
In addition, firewood and red chilies are being burnt along the periphery of the forest, Singh said. “The fumes and light alarms leopards and stop them from crossing over. We, however, ensure the fumes do not harm the animals or residents,” he said.
Forest department officials said that over the past two weeks, groups of around five have been patrolling the area between 8pm and 2am to avoid untoward incidents.
On August 11, HT reported that Cocao , a Rottweiler belonging to Ghodbunder Road residents Santosh and Aarti Notiyal Gupta, was attacked. Blurry footage from a CCTV camera on the premises showed two leopards attacking Cocao around 11.35pm on August 6. The Rottweiler’s carcass was found a few kilometers away from the housing complex two days later.
“Leopards have taken shelter less than a kilometre away from our residential complex. We have found a lot of leopard hair in the place where we found Cocao’s body,” said Aarti. She added that streetlights in the area do not work and this is also a major cause of concern."
However, Preeti Khandelwal, another resident of the area, said efforts by the forest department and local NGOs was the reason why they ‘sleep peacefully’.
“They keep a vigil all night for our sake. We had been briefed to keep the area garbage free so that stray dogs do not venture in residential areas. We have also been bursting crackers inside the colony so that leopards are alarmed,” she said.
Living free: 35 leopards roam Mumbai's forests
Spotted, once again
Most recent sighting
August 3: A leopard was spotted at Ghodbunder Road. Images of the animal seated atop a rock have gone viral on the social media
Well within its boundary: Forest officials
Officials from the forest department said the leopard was well within the boundary of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and had not entered residential areas. “Residents need not panic as these big cats tend to sit on hard surfaces during the rainy season. Since the residential flats are adjacent to SGNP, residents need to realise that it is a common occurrence,” said KP Singh, chief conservator of forest, Thane forest range.
Motivate residents to co-exist: Activist
"Rather than spreading a negative message of such sightings on the social media, we should use technology to our advantage and motivate residents to co-exist, be aware and stay updated," said Pawan Sharma, president, Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW).
(Photo courtesy: Thane forest range)