12-year-old boy mauled in Aarey

A 12-year-old boy has become the latest victim in the man-animal conflict after he was mauled to death by a leopard while hewas returning from school in the Aarey Milk Colony yesterday.

Dragged to death: Local residents point to the spot where Prakash Salunkhe was mauled to death by the leopard. Prakash was walking back home from school with his friends when the big cat pounced on him at Adarsh Nagar in Aarey Milk Colony yesterday. Pic/Sameer Markande

The boy, identified as Prakash Salunkhe, was on his way home with his friends when the big cat pounced on him and dragged him into the bushes.

This happened between 5.15 and 6 pm, while they were making their way through a narrow lane surrounded by thick foliage in Adarsh Nagar, which is barely 100 metres away from the Aarey Hospital.

The victim was walking on the edge of the road, and no sooner did the leopard drag him than some boys playing football in the vicinity were alerted by the growls and came running to help.

The group of boys ran towards the bushes and seeing them approach, the leopard abandoned his kill and scurried away. “When we reached Prakash, he was dead,” said one of the boys from the group. An eyewitness said that the boy had received injuries to his neck and was later rushed to Bhagwati Hospital.

Incidentally, a leopard killed a child in the same area last year January.

Lack of buses
Local residents claim that the incident could have been avoided had there been bus services for school children. The area where the incident occurred falls under the jurisdiction of Mumbai Territorial Range of Thane Forest Department.

“It is an unfortunate incident. We will set up two more cages in Adarsh Nagar in order to trap the animal,” said Sudhir Padwale, assistant conservator of forest, Thane.

The incident comes weeks after a four-year-old girl, Hiya Mhase, lost her life and a 11-year-old boy had a narrow escape in two separate leopard attacks in Aarey Milk Colony. After these attacks, forest authorities had set up two cages to trap the animal in Khadak Pada.

“It is sad to hear about the incident, but it could have been avoided if the schoolchildren were provided the facility of school buses. 20 days earlier, a small girl had lost her life, yet this group of 3-4 boys chose to take a shortcut to reach their homes, which goes through a dense forest area. We have already placed traps in the area and will try to locate the animal,” said Krishna Tiwari, a wildlife activist from the NGO Forest and Wildlife Conservation Centre.

Previous encounters
>> On October 1, four-year-old Hiya Mhase was killed in a leopard attack that occurred outside her residence in Khadak Pada in Aarey Milk Colony
>> In the first week of September, a leopard attacked 28-year-old plumber Guddu Kewat while he was on his way home
>> In January, a boy was killed in a leopard attack which occurred at Adarsh Nagar in Aarey Milk Colony 

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