Days after an 18-month-old girl was killed in a leopard attack near Mumbai’s Aarey Colony, a male leopard was trapped in a cage by Forest Officials.
The leopard that walked into the cage on Wednesday was taken to a rescue centre at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) for further examination and observation, a forest official said.
However, it is yet to be ascertained if it was the same leopard that killed a toddler in the area two days ago.
Forest officials believe that they might have captured the same leopard as it was caught from a strategic location close to Monday’s attack site.
After the incident on Monday, strategic locations were decided for the installation of trap cages based on the ground information and evaluation of facts.
The one-and-a-half-year-old girl was attacked and killed by a leopard in a forested area in unit number 15 of Aarey Colony on Monday morning when the child followed her mother who was on her way to a temple nearby.
Forest officials and wildlife volunteers later put up cages at strategic locations in and around the site to capture the animal.
As many as 30 wildlife volunteers from Aarey, NGOs, forest department officials and personnel from the SGNP were working together to initiate an action plan to prevent human-wildlife conflict in the area, said Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW) founder and president Pawan Sharma, who is also honorary wildlife warden with the state forest department.
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The measures included patrolling, installing of cages and camera traps, spreading awareness and alerting the residents of Aarey about dos and don’ts to avoid any further conflict with wild animals, he said.
Though a leopard has been captured, the forest department and wildlife volunteers will continue to monitor the movement of other big cats in the area.
Last year, following a string of leopard attacks on humans in Aarey, forest officials had captured a total of four big cats, after the first three turned out to be the wrong ones.
Wildlife enthusiasts and Save Aarey campaigners have alleged that more than seven big cats have been trapped by the forest department so far and if this continues, within 2-3 years there will be no leopards left.
& they have trapped &taken away a leopard from Aarey today.
Until now 7+ leopards had already been trapped from their own habitat i.e Aarey while projects & encroachments come up.
If this continues,within 2-3 years there will be no leopards in Aarey forest. pic.twitter.com/GDD1jlJ9ca
— Save Mumbai’s forests (@SaveMumbaifore1) October 26, 2022
In 2021, the Forest Department, with the support of Wildlife Conservation Society-India and Wildlife SOS had launched a drive to radio-collar leopards to study their movement and reduce human-leopard conflict in Aarey.
Wildlife Scientist Dr. Vidya Athreya who led the radio-collaring programme said that though such incidents are rare, the only option the Forest Department has is to remove them from the area.
“A leopard attacking or killing a person is a very rare thing, as they normally avoid humans. So it is important to remove that individual from there. I hope that it is the right individual because it is very difficult to ascertain,” Dr. Athreya told Indiatimes.
She also clarified that non-problematic leopards caught by the Forest Department are usually released back into the wild.
“If it is established that the leopards have not attacked any humans, they are released back. Even last year, one of the first leopard that was caught turned out to be the sister of the one which was attacking humans. We radio-collared her as part of our programme and she was released back,” she explained.
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