Shivers went down the spines of the residents of the Wellington Co-operative Housing Society (CHS) in Hiranandani Estate in Thane (W) on seeing the CCTV footage of a leopard entering and exiting their colony in the wee hours of Tuesday.
Some of the residents said this was for the first time that a leopard had visited their society and were surprised by the big cat’s decision to visit the society despite two kilometres separating it from the national park boundary. The first person to spot the leopard was security guard Prakash Pathare, who was working in the night shift. “I was monitoring the CCTV cameras around 12.55 am when I saw a big animal at the main entrance to the compound. The moment I saw it chasing a dog I realised that it was a wild animal and immediately called Pravin Baikar, the other guard, inside to prevent him from being attacked.”
While Pathare went out to call Baikar, the camera recorded the leopard exiting the society premises through its back gate. The next day, a member of the society informed the Thane Forest Department. “One of the members, upon discovering about the leopard’s visit, informed the forest officials. The video shows the animal entering through the front gate and exiting via the back gate. Luckily, none of the society members or the security guards were attacked. The forest department officials visited the society yesterday and today to inspect it thoroughly,” said society manager Gopal Krishna Iyer.
Sudhir Padwale, assistant conservator of forest, said the officials have installed traps to capture the leopard and informed the society members and the security guards about dos and don’ts to avoid man-animal conflict in the future.
“The forest officials suggested that the best we could do is ensure that the compound and the streets were well lit at night. They also asked us to keep children indoors after 7 pm or make sure that adults were supervising them whenever outdoors. They also suggested bursting crackers everyday, as this would scare the animal and force it to flee the area,” said Prakash Nagapurkar, a resident of the society. “They even asked security guards to carry sticks throughout the night and use a powerful flashlight.”
Vidya Athreya, a renowned naturalist and an ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), said, “The major reason for leopards wandering into residential areas is garbage and stray dogs. Keeping their compound clear off garbage and strays are the simplest precautionary measures residents can take to ensure their safety.”