Monday, Jan 30, 2023

Aarey Milk Colony: Forest department and experts take steps to calm residents

After six attacks on humans, the forest department and wildlife experts identified a sub-adult leopardess - believed to be 1.5-2-years-old - as the one behind the attacks using camera trappings.

Aarey Milk Colony, Aarey, leopard, leopard attack, Mumbai, Mumbai news, India newsA trap cage at one of the attack sites. (Express Photo)

As pressure mounts to capture the leopardess that is suspected to be behind nine attacks in the Aarey Milk Colony, including two attacks on children, the forest department is struggling to calm angry and terrified residents, albeit increasing its vigilance.

After six attacks on humans, the forest department and wildlife experts identified a sub-adult leopardess – believed to be 1.5-2-years-old – as the one behind the attacks using camera trappings. On October 1, three cages were activated at the attack sites.

In 2013-14, individuals from different walks of life, wildlife experts and enthusiasts came together to set up camera traps across the colony to find out more about the leopards that live there. The locations of the camera are changed frequently to gather as much data as possible about the leopard population in the area.

A camera trap is an infrared camera equipped with motion sensors that takes still pictures or 10-second-long videos when it senses movement. Strapped on trees, they help to capture data about wild animals in their natural setting without disturbing them.

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The camera trappings are also used to identify locations to set up cages in areas that are frequented by the suspected animal.

For the past month, over 30 forest department officials and 15 volunteers are working in shifts to trace the animal. The number of cages has been increased to seven. On several occasions, the leopardess has been seen around the cage but has not walked into it. To capture the movement of the leopard, camera traps were also increased from 5 to 10 in the last month.

Nearly a month later, and after trapping three leopards, the problem animal has remained out of the reach of the forest department. When the wildlife experts matched the rosette pattern- individual spots and patterns on a leopard- of the trapped animal with the attacker caught on camera, the researchers concluded that the three were not the animal they were looking for.


Three leopards, including a sibling of the problem animal, have walked into the cages in Aarey. Barring the sibling, the other two big cats have been released into the wild.

As the caging of the leopardess remained unsuccessful, the Principal Conservator of Forests granted permission to tranquilise the leopard suspected to be behind the human-animal conflict incidents in Aarey. The forest department staff have also prepared a plan for tranquillisation of the animal.

However, given the challenging terrain and high human density area, the forest department officials have avoided tranquillisation.


As opposed to the attacks in 2017, the leopard involved in the recent attacks is a sub-adult leopardess, and wildlife experts through attack footage have ascertained that the leopardess is still developing its hunting skills.

Forest officials have asked citizens to remain calm, follow precautionary measures and not provoke animals. Talking to The Indian Express earlier, Girija Desai, assistant conservator of Forests (Thane), said, “Residents picked up a full-grown pig, which was killed, and threw it in a different direction. There was no reason to do this… they should have allowed the leopard to eat its prey. This is how animal-human conflict increases.”

As the permission to capture the animal ends on October 31, forest officials are seeking an extension while analysing its plan to capture the animal.

First published on: 01-11-2021 at 02:37 IST
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