Leopard attacks six at Mumbai housing society, tranquillised after four-hour rescue operation
Mumbai doctors said the residents who were attacked suffered scratches and minor cutsmumbai Updated: Jan 14, 2018 01:16 IST
A male leopard attacked six residents after straying into a society in Nanepada, Mulund (East) early on Saturday. The forest department and police conducted a four-hour-long rescue operation, following which a team from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) tranquillised the animal.
Savitha Khute, 30; Balaji Kamte, 40; Kistamma Hanumanta Palle, 40; Ganesh Pujari, 44; and Suresh Basutkar, 50; were taken to Sion Hospital, where they are said to be stable.
Doctors said they suffered scratches and minor cuts. “We have discharged a few and will send the rest home at the end of the day,” said the casualty medical officer, Sion Hospital. Residents said Sunita Sonawane, 35, who also suffered minor injuries was treated at a local clinic.
Residents said the leopard was first spotted around 6.30am outside Matruchaya Housing Society, which is 3 km from SGNP. “He attacked two men, before moving closer to the housing societies,” said Pallavi Udekar, who lives in Vaastu Building.
Khute said she opened the door at 7.15am on hearing commotion outside her house. “The minute I stepped outside, I saw people looking at my house. Suddenly a large animal growled, pounced on me, and dug his nails and teeth into my back and legs,” said Khute. “My neighbours made a lot of noise and tried to help, after which the leopard ran off. This was possibly the most fearful morning of my life,” she said.
Her husband Dhananjay said the big cat moved towards the Matruchaya Housing Society after attacking his wife. “Pujari was one of several residents who had stepped out of their homes. The leopard attacked him on his head. As residents ran for their lives, the leopard made its way into Pujari’s ground-floor house, and stayed there until he was tranquillised,” said Dhananjay.
Forest officials said more than a 100 people were part of the rescue operation, which started by 8.15 am.
“It was difficult to control the crowd as hundreds had gathered. There was a lot of confusion and we needed to ascertain exactly where the animal was,” said Jitendra Ramgaokar, deputy conservator of forest, Thane forest range. “The SGNP rescue team located the leopard, after which we ensured that the building’s exits and alleyways were blocked. We also kept the crowd at bay.”
He added that the animal was tranquillised, put on a saline drip, and taken to SGNP. “The animal’s health will now be monitored,” he said.
“The leopard kept charging towards me from the window but we stayed patient and waited for the right moment to tranquillise him. He is now sedated and will be kept at a quarantined location at the park’s rescue centre,” said Dr Shailesh Pethe, veterinarian.
Forest officials said leopards have been spotted in Mulund, but never this far from the national park and never before in a housing society. “We will check the movement of other animals in the area and conduct awareness drives so residents know they need not fear,” said Ramgaokar. “The forest department will bear the cost of treatment for all injured residents and will check the extent of damage to their homes.”
“Humans are encroaching into forest territory and leopards are now moving into human habitations. Leopards are spotted mostly in Mulund (West), but this one travelled a long distance. We need to be careful, but also ensure that their habitat is not encroached upon any more,” said Prakash Gangadhar, BJP corporator from Mulund.
Animal welfare officer Sunish Subramaniam said he had received a distress call from Mulund residents on Thursday over a leopard crossing the Eastern Express Highway. “In all likelihood, this was the same free-roaming leopard that made its way to the Mulund housing society. We will inform the forest department about this,” he said.
SGNP is home to about 40 free-roaming leopards in and around the park premises. Earlier this week, another leopard was spotted on CCTV cameras at Yashodham Complex in Goregaon.