The forest department that has started probing two recent leopard attacks on children in Aarey Milk Colony suspects that a single animal was involved in both incidents. In an attempt to trap the leopard before more attacks take place, forest officials, along with environmentalists, have set up camera traps to identify and track down the animal.
On March 21, in Aarey Milk Colony’s Chafyachapada village, a woman snatched away her three-year-old from the claws of a leopard that had reportedly pounced on the child. The woman’s cries for help had scared the leopard away and the child was left with several injuries on the legs and back.
Earlier this week, a leopard had entered another tribal hamlet, Khadakpada, less than two kilometres away from Chafyachapada, and attacked a child. The three-year-old boy escaped with deep injuries on his chest and throat after a local resident scared the animal away.
“We suspect it to be the same leopard. We are setting up camera traps strategically to ascertain our suspicion and then we will get an animal trap to avoid such attacks. We have intensified patrolling with two teams and two shifts searching through Aarey Milk Colony,” said Santosh Kank, Range Forest Officer (RFO), Mumbai Territorial. Forest officials said five cameras have been set up in each of the affected villages to capture the movement of leopards.
Wildlife researcher Nikit Surve from Wildlife Conservation Society-India programme, along with Members of Mumbaikars for SGNP (MfSGNP), are assisting the forest department’s investigation.
“So far, we are tracking two leopard tracks around the villages concerned … our probe has not revealed anything yet,” Surve said.
According to forest officials, in order to trap the animal, the department would require permission from the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), Maharashtra, who is posted in Nagpur.
The last time a leopard was trapped in the area was in December 2016. A male big cat had been caged near unit 25 of Aarey Milk Colony. Earlier, in November 2016, an eight-year-old male leopard had been caught from Hiranandani, Powai, and shifted to Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).
A study undertaken by the SGNP in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) from December 2014 to April 2015 found 35 free-roaming leopards across a 140 sqkm area, including places outside SGNP, Nagla forest block across Vasai Creek and Aarey Milk Colony.