Residents of Ulhasnagar’s Camp-5 were panic-struck after a leopard entered a bungalow on Sunday morning. Forest officials, who reached the spot an hour after being informed by police, rescued the animal in an operation that lasted between four and five hours. Many residents, who refused to believe it at first, realised a big cat was lurking in their compound only after the CCTV footage of a housing society showed the leopard in the area.
“A male leopard, four to five years old, was rescued from Ulhasnagar. It was trapped inside a bungalow in a densely populated residential area. The rescue operation was jointly done by the SGNP (Sanjay Gandhi National Park) and the Thane Rescue Team. It was an extremely difficult operation, because the leopard had ventured into a thickly populated residential area. Luckily, no one was injured. The leopard is healthy and extremely aggressive,” said Dr Shailendra Pethe, veterinary officer, SGNP.
At 10 am Sunday, security guards of a coaching centre at Bhatiya Chowk in Camp-5 raised an alarm after spotting the leopard. “I was sitting in front of the building when I saw the spotted cat jump across the wall and enter the society. It was too big to be anything else,” said Manoj Patil, a guard. But no one took note until the leopard jumped over another wall and entered the house of one Suresh Asrani.
According to Ulhasnagar police, this was when the leopard was captured on CCTV camera, running across the compound of the house and trying to jump over the gate. “The gate of the bungalow was too high for it to jump over. So, he retraced his steps and went inside the society he had earlier crossed, and went straight to the electric room in the basement,” said a police officer from Central police station.
The residents of the building either locked themselves in or came out on to the streets. “When I heard what happened, I didn’t even believe it. But then I received the recording of the CCTV footage that shows the leopard jumping off the wall of Asrani’s bungalow,” said Hiresh Mali, a resident of the area. “There are so many people on the streets, and I have read somewhere that all wild animals are scared of crowds. So I am sticking with the crowd,” Mali said with nervous laughter. Yogita Barve, a mother of three, locked herself in her house and helped the people outside by lowering supplies from her windows. She refused to step outside until the area was declared safe.
At 4.30 pm, the Forest Department, the Thane Rescue Team and volunteers managed to locate and isolate the leopard. “We tried using our nets and other things. The animal was too aggressive. So, we blocked all exit points using plywood and other stronger materials. After that, Dr Shailendra Pethe, our team member from SGNP, tranquilised the animal,” said Honorary Wildlife Warden Pawan Sharma.
The unconscious leopard was escorted out of the building as people cheered. “I hope this is the last time we see it, but it has been quite an adventurous day,” said 17-year-old Manish Godi, a resident. Forest officials explained how the leopard could have entered the area. “The area is surrounded by fields and there are dense forests further away. It is possible that the big cat strayed too far away from its intended path and reached here. Once the city woke up, the cat panicked and wanted a way out,” said Sharma.
The leopard has been taken to SGNP. “We will conduct medical check-ups on the animal Monday. It is healthy and seems aggressive. We are also studying if it is a leopard we have come across earlier,” Sharma added.