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Drive slowly, there's a leopard crossing ahead

Despite an alarming increase in the number of leopards being hit or run over by motorists on the roads in Aarey Colony and the forest department officials requesting for measures to be taken to minimise such incidents in May this year, no steps have been taken in this regard.

Film City at night
Unsafe zone: Leopards cross the roads like this one in Film City at night, and incidents of them being run over by motorist have been on a rise. (inset) The leopard that was hit and injured by a biker at Aarey Colony recently is undergoing treatment at Borivli National Park

Chief Conservator of Forest and Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) Director Sunil Limaye shot off a letter over five months ago to Film City officials and the concerned authorities in Aarey Colony to install speed breakers on the roads to such incidents, his request seems to have fallen on deaf ears. On Friday last week, SGNP officials sent the authorities of Film City and Aarey Colony huge hoardings to be installed in the areas.

These hoardings also offer advice on how to avoid human-leopard conflict and the dos and don’ts on spotting a big cat, and the control room numbers in case of encounters.

Limaye said, “In the past it has been observed that leopards are frequently sighted at Film City and Aarey Colony area. We don’t want any human-leopard conflict occurring, nor do we want any animal being hit by a speeding vehicle. This is the main reason behind our request to the concerned authorities to install speed breakers within these areas at the earliest.”

He added that letters have been sent to departments of the Film City management and Aarey colony authorities seeking to hold a meeting to discuss the matter, but nothing has happened so far.

In April this year, a male adult leopard was injured by an unidentified vehicle at Film City in Goregaon (East), while in May one night a four-month-old male cub was killed by a vehicle near Unit 13 in Aarey Milk Colony. Last month, a biker and a leopard were injured at Aarey Colony. The animal was crossing the road when the biker collided with it and was seriously injured as his bike skidded for a distance after the collision.

Action still pending
Speaking to MiD DAY, Managing Director (Film City) Laxmikant Deshmukh said, “We also do care for wildlife and so I will see to it that we act on the letter submitted to us by SGNP authorities. We will ensure that speed breakers are installed at the earliest.”

Leopard expert Krishna Tiwari said that action should be taken at the earliest as the big cat is being endangered in these areas.

“If the letter was submitted to the concerned department by SGNP authorities to install the speed breakers in the month of May, then they should have done it on priority-basis. There is frequent movement of leopards in Aarey Colony and Film City due to its proximity to the forest. Motorists have been observed speeding up while driving at Aarey Colony in the night, which has been leading to accidents. Speed breakers would definitely help as these animals cross the roads frequently in the night,” Tiwari said.  

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