Dead cattle lure leopards to Aarey
Trailing the causes behind the spate of leopard attacks in the area, MiD DAY locates two spots where carcasses are being dumped illegally in the open, and learns big cats are regular visitors
While illegal garbage dumping at Aarey Colony, open defecation, stray dogs and pigs, and inadequate lighting in the area have been blamed for the numerous incidents of man-animal conflict, another major meal option is attracting leopards to forage around human settlements. Illegal dumping of cattle carcasses in the open, allegedly being done by ‘tabela’ or stable owners in the area, is being seen as another major reason the stage is being set so often for man-animal incidents to occur.
After covering the spate of leopard attacks in and around Aarey Colony, MiD DAY brought to the fore several reasons that have been making human-animal conflict incidents possible.
The unavailability of public toilets, inadequate lighting and illegal garbage dumping may offer marauding leopards an easy hunting ground. The spotted cats are mainly on the lookout for pigs and stray dogs around settlements, and the hint of a carcass in the area draws the cats dangerously closer. A crouching child answering nature’s call can mislead leopards into attacking, but humans do not normally figure on the menu.
According to a local from Aadivasi Pada, the major reason leopards are getting attracted to human settlements in Aarey, is because cattle carcasses are being dumped illegally at some locations in the area.
Taking the cue, MiD DAY visited a location near Unit 15, which is around 400 meters away from Aarey Hospital and staff quarters, and found carcasses of around eight buffalo calves discarded in the open. The local, who did not wish to be named, said, “More than dogs and pigs, the open disposal of carcasses in the forest by the stable owners is attracting leopards near the settlements. This is steadily raising the risk of human-leopard conflict here. I have even seen a leopard heading towards the area where the carcasses are being dumped, which is barely a few hundred metres from a settlement.”
A visit near Unit no 28 in the colony, which is around half a kilometre from CEO House, revealed another carcass dumping ground. A source in the area said that carcasses are usually dumped at the locations under the cover of darkness. “Dogs have been observed feeding on the carcasses. Also, the carcasses being dumped here could lead to the spread of diseases,” the source said.
Biologist and leopard expert Vidya Athreya, from the Centre for Wildlife Studies, said, “Disposal of cattle carcasses in the open should be avoided, as it could attract leopards. If we are providing leopards with an easy food source, we can’t afford to act surprised when they begin to come closer to human settlements. Without a better waste and garbage disposal method, there is no long-term solution to the issue.”
Wildlife expert Krishna Tiwari said, “It is really shocking that carcasses are being dumped in the open at locations in Aarey Colony. This will definitely attract dogs and leopards. If this continues, chances of man-animal conflict will only increase. The local authorities, including Aarey Dairy department, BMC and forest department should take serious note of the matter and initiate stringent action against those behind this trend.”
Shiv Sena corporator Jitendra Valvi from Aarey Colony said, “It is shocking to hear that cattle carcasses are being disposed out in the open. We will raise the issue with the concerned Aarey officials and see to it that this is stopped at the earliest.”
Aarey Milk Colony CEO says
Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Aarey Milk Colony, Ashok Jadhav said, “Disposal or dumping of cattle carcasses in the open is illegal. If at all such things are going on, then we would immediately take strict action against those involved.” When questioned about the unavailability of lights on some of the roads in Aarey and also near Aarey Hospital and staff quarters, he said, “ I have already taken note of the matter and will see to it that the issue is resolved in a month.”
Did you know?
Aarey Colony area comes under the jurisdiction of the Dairy Development Department and a part of the area falls under the territorial range of Thane Forest Department. Around 30 cattle stables have been constructed each with capacity to house between 500 and 550 animals. Private cattle owners maintaining their herds in Mumbai city prior to 1949, were shifted and allotted licenses to keep their animals in the colony stables. Currently, Aarey Milk Colony has the capacity to accommodate 16,079 cattle.