The tall grass and shrubs surrounding the adivasi padas in Aarey Milk Colony area often camouflages sleeping or low-lying leopards, exposing passersby to surprise attacks.
Last Friday, 12-year-old Prakash Salunkhe, a resident of Adarsh Nagar, was killed in a leopard attack while he was returning home from school. This incident, too, took place in an area where the foliage was thick and overgrown.
In order to avoid further human-leopard incidents in the Aarey Milk Colony, the Thane Forest Department (TFD) has plans to remove the tall growths surrounding the trails that pass through the forest, so that people using these narrow paths can spot a leopard from afar.
“After the monsoons, the grass on the sides of the small pathways that pass through the forest in Aarey Milk Colony has become thick, making it difficult to see what lies behind them. This, in turn increases the chances of human-leopard conflict. In order to curb the attacks, we will trim the surrounding grass,” a senior Thane Forest Department official said, adding that the thick foliage made walking in the night dangerous.
In the past, ‘Mumbaikars for SGNP’ along with various other NGOs have carried out leopard awareness programmes at various tribal padas in Aarey Colony. Time and again peoplehaving houses in close proximity of the forest have been told to cut down the grass near their house and keep the surrounding area garbage free.
The TFD now does not want to take any chances and has plans to visit the padas and clear the padas and pathways.
Rajesh Sanap, a volunteer with Sanjay Gandhi National Park, said, “The recent incident where a boy was attacked is extremely unfortunate. However, parents should accompany their kids all the time. They should not allow their children to take the shortcut that passes through the forest and the fields because this increases the chances of man-animal conflict. He added that anyone stepping out of the house after dark and before dawn should go in groups and carry a stick and torch.