The forest department on Wednesday captured an adult male leopard that had strayed into the basement of Hotel Satkar Residency in Thane (West), in a four-hour-long rescue operation.
The animal was first spotted around 5.30am near the parking lot of Korum Mall, about 700 metres from the hotel, police said. A closed circuit television camera operator, who had spotted the leopard while it was purportedly leaving the parking area, alerted the mall’s security officials, who in turn informed the disaster control room along, fire brigade and forest officials.
“The animal purportedly had left (the mall) from its rear exit and was seen moving towards Vasant Vihar residential area nearby,” a police officer said. It was finally captured from the basement of the hotel at Naupada around 11.30am, police said.
Thane Wildlife Warden Pawan Sharma told The Indian Express that the leopard had taken refuge behind a water tank in the hotel’s basement. “After ensuring that the animal was covered from all sides, we burst crackers (in the basement) to make it come out,” Sharma said.
Pawan Sharma, Honorary Wildlife Warden, Maharashtra Forest Department and president of Resqink Association for Wildlife Warden, said since the hotel is located in a heavily populated area, “we drew a map of the hotel, marked exit points and cordoned off the area. We also earmarked two locations from where we could spot the animal and shoot tranquilizers”. It was tranquilized at 11.10am, forest officials said.
Man-animal conflict on rise
Spotlight is back on the increasing man-animal conflict in Mumbai Metropolitan Region after a leopard strayed into Thane Wednesday. While big cats and humans have co-existed in the region over the years, population explosion in Mumbai and its suburbs, surrounding Sanjay Gandhi National Park, has led to a manifold spike in construction activities which in turn have increased man-animal conflict. Wild animals, including leopards, often come out to prey on livestock in the slums and other human habitats that have sprung up on the fringes of forested areas. In 2018, a leopard had entered Mulund (West), while in 2017 an animal had strayed into Andheri (East).
Jitendra Ramgaonkar, Divisional Forest Officer of Thane, said, “The animal was taken to a rescue centre at Sanjay Gandhi National Park by a team of experts, led by Dr Shailesh Pethe. Prima facie, the animal did not seem to have sustained any injuries, but it would be released after thorough medical tests.”
Forest officials also combed Korum Mall and its nearby areas following which the place was opened for people at noon. While the Mall lies within a five km radius of the Yeoor forests, this was the first time that a leopard had strayed into the area.
Leopards in and around national parks are studied and documented with the help of camera traps and microchips. “The images of this animal will now be compared with that of the camera trappings spotted around Thane ,” Sharma said.