As the leopardess suspected to be behind at least eight attacks on humans in Aarey Milk Colony since September remains elusive, the state forest department has decided to attempt to tranquilise the problem animal.
The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests office has granted permission to tranquilise the leopard with the forest department being instructed to prepare a plan for the same, said officials. The department had installed five cages and 10 camera traps in the area since earlier this month, but the leopardess is yet to be trapped. It has, however, been sighted near a cage trap.
Since August 31, eight persons in Aarey Colony, including a 68-year-old woman and a four-year-old child, have sustained injuries after leopard attacks.
A sub-adult leopardess – aged between one-and-a-half and two years – was captured on October 1. When the wildlife experts matched its rosette pattern – leopard’s spots, each animal has a different pattern – with the picture of the attacker, the researchers concluded that the trapped animal is not the one they are looking for.
Through increased camera traps, the department and volunteers are monitoring the daytime movement of the leopardess. Temporary machans/platforms have also been installed from where veterinarians can tranquilise the leopardess.
“The leopardess is aberrant. It is not shying away from humans, rather deliberately moving towards them. We usually do not have to use tranquilisers to capture a leopard, as it is easier to cage and trap them than tigers. But in this case, the leopardess can be seen near the cage but is not entering it,” said Sunil Limaye, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife).
Once the leopardess is trapped, the department, along with experts, will conduct an examination. Later, a committee will decide on how and where to release the animal.
As per the 2011 Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change guidelines, for human-leopard conflict management, the decision to capture an animal should be the last option, and animals trapped after deliberate attacks on humans should never be released back into the wild. The translocated leopards have been documented to traverse back a distance of over 100 km to return to their home territory.