Wada: An air of fear and gloom has been hanging over Ghoong village in Palghar district’s Wada taluka, ever since a leopard attacked and ran away with a 2-year-old girl on Wednesday.
25 Thane Forest Dept officials and 25 villagers formed a search party to look for Darshana. They searched for eight hours on Wednesday and on subsequent days as well
Darshana Shivram Bhoir, a resident of a tribal hamlet on the foothills of a mountain close to the village, was playing with her four-year-old brother outside her house around 8.30 am on Wednesday, when a leopard jumped across a 10-foot wide stream next to her house, bit into her neck and disappeared into the bushes with her. Her brother tried to save her by screaming for help, but it was already too late.
The stream which the leopard leapt across to attack Darshana
More than five days after the attack, the forest department and villagers, who have been carrying out lengthy search operations in a team of 50 people, have still not been able to find Darshana’s body. Villagers say the incident has come as a huge shock to them as Ghoong has not seen an attack on a human being by a wild animal in a decade.
“All of us are shocked and afraid because this is the first human death caused by an attack by a wild animal in the last ten years. Leopard sightings are very common as the forest is barely 500 metres away from our village, but there have not been any attacks,” sarpanch Mohan Pawar, told mid-day when we visited the village on Friday.
The two-year-old (circled, below) was playing with her brother outside her house when the incident took place
While some villagers insisted that a tiger had attacked the girl, Thane Forest Department (TFD) officials told mid-day that the scenario was very unlikely because there have been no tiger sightings in the area for years. Villagers also said an attack by a hyena could also not be ruled out, but officials said a leopard must have attacked the sitting girl, mistaking her for a small animal.
Immediately after the Wada TFD team was informed about the incident, 25 TFD officials and 25 villagers formed a search party to look for Darshana. The search operation went on for eight hours on Wednesday and was conducted on subsequent days as well, but to no avail.
On Thursday, TFD Chief Conservator of Forest K P Singh went to the village with other officials to review the situation, and a camera trap was set up on Saturday to follow the activities of the leopard. However, while forest officials could hear the big cat growling, they couldn’t catch it on camera as the leopard did not go near the trap.
The TFD is also planning to set up five more camera traps in the area to monitor the animal’s movement. A senior official told mid-day that the chances of finding Darshana’s body were very slim now as the animal that attacked her must have eaten all of her in five days.
Speaking to mid-day, Thane Chief Conservator of Forest K P Singh said, “It is an unfortunate incident as a small girl has lost her life. The leopard must have mistaken the sitting girl for a small animal. We have already handed over Rs 1 lakh to the family as compensation and the remaining Rs 4 lakh will be given after formalities are completed.
In order to see the movement of animal and study its behaviour, we are setting up more camera traps near the spot where the attack took place.”