One leopard behind attacks on four children in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony? Experts think so
Two-year-old boy Vihaan Garuda was walking behind his father Nilesh when the leopard grabbed him by the neck on Saturday. He was killedmumbai Updated: Jul 24, 2017 13:26 IST
After a leopard killed a two-year-old at Aarey Milk Colony on Saturday, forest officials suspect that the cat could have been involved in three other attacks.
A Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) staff member’s son was fatally injured in the attack. Vihaan Garuda was walking behind his father Nilesh when the leopard grabbed him by the neck.
On May 29, a four-year-old boy living at Royal Palms in Aarey Colony, Goregaon, was attacked.
On March 17, a leopard grabbed a three-year-old boy near Khadakpada, a tribal hamlet inside Aarey. He escaped with injuries to his chest and throat after residents scared the cat away.
On May 21, a woman saved her three-year-old son by snatching him away from the claws of a leopard that had pounced on him in Chafyachapada, Aarey. The boy suffered minor injuries.
- Be alert when it is dark as that is when leopards are active.
- Put on loud music so the big cat avoids you.
- Do not venture out alone after dark.
- Mere sightings of a leopard do not translate into danger.
- Do not crowd around the animal.
- Ensure that the garbage is disposed and no feral dogs are present in the locality as leopards often prey on them
- (Source: Sanjay Gandhi National Park)
Forest officers said they were sure that the same leopard was responsible for all four attacks. “We have closely monitored the pattern of the attacks. In a majority of the cases, the animal lunged for the child’s neck. It did not eat any of its intended victims,” said Santosh Kank, range forest officer, Mumbai.
“We do not know much about the animal, only that it is much more vicious than any other leopards in this area,” he said.
Kank said he filed a report, asking senior officers in the Mumbai range for permission to trap the animal as soon as possible.
Officials from the forest department installed 15 camera traps at Moracha Pada, near the helipad at Aarey, close to Film City, Goregaon (East), where Saturday’s attack had taken place.
The department has increased the number of shifts to three, ensuring that at least five forest officials patrol the area at a time.
“After carrying out a day-long investigation at the site and sensitising Film City officials on how to deal with such situations, we realised that one male adult leopard might be responsible for all the attacks,” said Jitendra Ramgaokar, deputy conservator of forest, Mumbai range.
“We have narrowed down a 5-km radius, within which the animal has been roaming and attacking children at eye-level,” he said.
Officials will rely on camera trap images to check the leopard’s spots and confirm whether it is the same one. “We cannot act until we are sure that there is just one animal involved. Our team will ensure that the area is well protected. We request residents not to panic,” said Ramgaokar.
Experts said there might be more than seven leopards in the area. “The forest department needs to monitor the situation for at least 15 to 20 days before taking any drastic measures. The situation is worrisome. But we cannot trap a leopard without confirming whether it is the same animal responsible for the attacks,” said Krishna Tiwari founder, forest and wildlife conservation society.
Others said it was unusual for leopards to engage in such attacks. “It is crucial to understand why this animal is behaving differently and what is prompting it to attack children,” said Vidya Athreya, wildlife biologist.
“The forest department needs to get to this animal as quickly as possible. Residents must remain cautious until then,” he added.
Aarey residents said these attacks were only the beginning as illegal encroachments in the area had increased by 20%. “Shanties have encroached upon a 600-acre plot. This will only invite more man-animal conflict,” said a resident, who did not wish to be identified.
“We had raised the issue with the forest department. However, we will write a fresh complaint to ensure that our citizens are protected and the animal is removed from the area. We will request trap cages,” said Nathu Rathod, chief executive officer, Aarey.