Two weeks after a Gaur ventured into a residential locality in Pune’s Kothrud area and died due to suspected exhaustion after its capture by the Forest department, another Gaur was spotted in Sutarwadi area in Pune along the bypass road of Mumbai-Bangalore Highway on Tuesday morning. In the evening, following day-long efforts, Forest department teams succeeded in driving the animal back into the adjacent forest area “with least intervention”.
Police and Pune Forest Division officials said that on Tuesday morning, from 8.30 am, they started receiving multiple reports about the sighting of a Gaur next to the compound wall of the High Energy Material Research Laboratory (HEMRL), which is a facility of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) located in Sutarwadi, off the highway bypass. One of the calls was also from a Forest department official, who saw a passerby click photos of the animal and got to know that a Gaur had been sighted.
Initially, a couple of teams each from the state Forest department and police rushed to the spot. After confirmation that the animal was, in fact, a Gaur, more teams were called in.
This Gaur was a male of around five years of age, according to Forest department officials.
After its initial sighting along the HEMRL compound wall, the Gaur subsequently moved to the bank of a stream which flows into the adjacent Pashan lake. Throughout the day, the animal mostly remained along the bank of this stream, and ventured into a nearby agricultural field a few times.
Compared to the incident in Kothrud, where a huge crowd had gathered and there was some chaos as the Gaur kept on moving, the coordination and initial response of government agencies seemed streamlined on Tuesday. However, a significantly large crowd of onlookers did gather at the spot, especially on the bridge above the stream on the bypass road. Police and forest officials had to keep dispersing the crowd throughout the day. The situation coincidently arose just a day after a workshop was held for staff of Pune forest division, on the topic of ‘man animal conflict in urban setting’, in the wake of the Kothrud incident.
After initial assessment of the situation, Forest department officials decided that the best course of action was to make the animal move back into the forest area behind the HEMRL campus, from where it was suspected to have ventured towards the city limits.
Subsequently, nets and barricades were put up by Forest department staff at the points from where the Gaur could move towards the highway bypass road or into the city area. Only one route towards the forest was kept open.
Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Sunil Limaye, who visited the area on Tuesday afternoon, said, “Around 7 pm in the evening, the animal moved back into the nearby forest area, at least for now. Since the beginning, efforts of our teams had been to drive the animal back into the forest. Our plan was not to use the tranquiliser. We now know that there is a habitat of Gaurs in a forest area behind HEMRL-Sutarwadi region. Our effort was to make sure that then animal returns to that area with least intervention.”
The Gaur was seen moving along with cattle on the stream bank on a few occasions.
Deputy Conservator of Forest (DCP) for Pune region, Rahul Patil, who coordinated efforts on the ground, said, “The animal largely remained calm throughout the day. We waited for the right opportunity to drive it off into the forest. We did not even seek permission to use tranquilliser darts this time. With cooperation from police, people and other stakeholders, the situation remained largely under control. We now know this area has had Gaur sightings, as reported to us by the local villagers. These are, by nature, very shy animals.
Considering what we have come to know from locals, the possibility of sightings in the coming days can’t be ruled out. We urge people to remain calm in case they see the animal and let it move without any provocation.”
A Forest department official also said that while a Gaur sighting once or twice a month is not uncommon in the area, the reason today’s sighting grabbed a lot of attention was possibly an effect of the Kothrud incident.
Limaye did not rule out the possibility of the Gaur sighted in Kothrud and the one on Tuesday having come from the same forest area. The two locations of the Gaur sightings are nearly 9 km apart by road.
In the Kothrud incident, officials had said the animal could have come from Mulshi and Tamhini forest.
Forest department officials said two teams will patrol the area during the night to check whether the animal ventures back into the area again, and the patrolling will continue for a few days.
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