The leopard was trapped around 1 am. Pic/Kunal Chaudhuri
The leopard was trapped around 1 am. Pic/Kunal Chaudhuri

A three-year-old leopard was caught at 1 am on Thursday, after it managed to elude forest officials for 40 days. The leopard had killed one child and injured four others.

And now that it's finally been caught, people in Aarey Colony and neighbouring areas can sleep in peace. This includes the 11 wildlife activists who spent several sleepless nights watching the problem cat's movements in a first-of-its kind control room. Thanks to their efforts, the forest department (FD) was able to bell the right big cat.

Wildlife researcher Rajesh Sanap, who led the initiative with Nikit Surve, said, "As there are several leopards in Aarey and surrounding areas, our aim was to ensure that innocent animals don't get trapped. The use of CCTV monitoring has been successful. There was close coordination between our team and the forest department staff."

How it worked
Since the control room was set up on August 16, Sanap, Surve and eight volunteers - Imran Udat , Kunal Chaudhari, Hitendra Pachkale, Kishor Patre, Kaushal Dubey, Ketan Vaidya, Prabhu Swami and Satish Lot - worked round the clock. While two teams would man the control room in 10-hour shifts, the third team would go and check the camera traps installed across Aarey Colony, made all the more necessary because of walkers who would cause disturbance around the camera traps despite requests to stay away from those areas.

The volunteers were also joined by Mayur Kamath, honorary wildlife warden of Mumbai, who said, "Every day, we analysed the footage, and the cage locations were decided on the basis of the suspected leopard's movements." Sunil Limaye, chief conservator of forests, Thane FD (territorial), and Deputy Conservator of Forests Jitendra Ramgaonkar were in touch with the teams.

Caught at last
Around 1 am, the leopard was finally trapped at Film City, after which Ramgaonkar asked Range Forest Officer Santosh Kank and the Leopard Rescue Team to reach the spot. At 2.15 am, the team arrived and shifted the adult male leopard to the rescue truck. At 3.30 am, they transported the animal to the leopard rescue centre at Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The leopard's identity was established by its markings.