Leopard that entered housing area in Mumbai released in SGNP
The leopard that was rescued from a residential building in Marol, Andheri (East) on Monday afternoon was released in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) later in the night.
Maharashtra forest department officials said that the animal, a male aged between one-and-a-half to two years, was released at an undisclosed location around 11.30pm. Forest officials said that the time between the rescue and release was less than 12 hours and could be one of the fastest post-rescue release of a big cat in the city. The animal, which had entered a housing complex in Vijay Nagar, Marol, at around 9am, had been tranquilised and taken away at 2.45pm.
Forest officials said they decided to release the cat early because keeping young leopards in captivity for long can cause behavioural changes. Jitendra Ramgaokar, deputy conservator of forest, Thane, said, “Secondly, the leopard’s mother is in the vicinity and may turn aggressive on not finding her cub.”
Leopard cubs are reared by their mother till the age of two and are often left in thick vegetation when the mother goes hunting.
SGNP veterinarians said the 22kg leopard was not injured during the rescue making it easier for them to decide that the animal should be released back in to the wild. “All blood samples were tested and the animal was healthy. Leopards this age get anxious fast after being separated from their mother,” said Dr Shailesh Pethe, senior veterinarian who shot the tranquilising dart while rescuing the leopard.
The leopard could have strayed in to the Marol housing complex from Aarey Milk Colony, which is less than 200m away. The animal was safely tranquilised when it took cover under the ground floor stairs of a building.
A recent census revealed the presence of 47 leopards across 140 sq. km area including SGNP and surrounding areas like Aarey Milk Colony, which is reported to be home to six adults and three cubs. “The leopard rescued from Marol has not been documented by us but we are certain about the mother’s presence in surrounding areas,” said Nikit Surve, wildlife biologist, Wildlife Conservation Society–India. “Monday’s rescue is a case study for other states facing human-animal encounters. Interdepartmental coordination, crowd management, and a well-strategised rescue helped defuse a ticking time bomb.”
The rescue operation involved officials from the Mumbai and Thane forest ranges, Powai police, fire department and NGOs. Chief wildlife warden, Maharashtra, lauded the efforts. “Credit goes to the field staff and officers that managed this operation smoothly,” said Nitin Kakodkar, principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife), Maharashtra.