An assistant who had gone to open the metallurgy lab at the IIT-Bombay campus got the shock of his life last morning when he saw a leopard hiding behind a generator. Scared to death, the assistant still had the presence of mind to down the shutter behind him before rushing off to inform the college authorities.
The feline’s pug marks outside. Pics/Prashant Waydande
Forest department officials and the police were informed and rescue teams from the Thane Forest Department and the Sanjay Gandhi National Park reached the Powai campus around 11.30 am and started a search operation. A resident, who is a friend of the lab assistant, said, “My friend saw the leopard behind the generator just when he was stepping inside the lab.
Forest department workers inspect the place from which the leopard entered the metallurgy lab
He panicked and ran out to down the shutter before informing authorities.” As soon as the news of the leopard inside the lab spread, there was pandemonium, with many students and staff members gathering near the lab. Police and forest officials had to control the crowd later.
The feline, however, had not been traced till late in the evening. “Trapping the leopard was not possible, as there are various chemicals inside the lab. This will be a lengthy operation, as there are many places through which it can escape and, therefore, we are deciding on a strategy,” said a forest official. He added that the leopard was sitting in one corner of the metallurgy department workshop building, but refused to divulge any more details.
By late evening, the forest department had managed to shut any openings in the lab to block any escape routes for the big cat. A senior official said they were planning to set up a cage with bait inside the lab in order to lure the animal in. There were also rumours that the leopard had cubs with it, but officials did not confirm this. “We are waiting for the leopard to walk into our trap now,” said the official.
Speaking to mid-day Deputy Forest Officer Kishore Thakare from the Thane Forest Department said, “The leopard has not been sighted, but we saw pugmarks in the morning. There is an exhaust fan in the workshop and the animal may have jumped out before we arrived. Our staff will be keeping vigil around the workshop.”
While the area around the lab had been cordoned off, students didn’t seem very worried. “There have been many rumours over the years, but I have never seen a leopard inside the campus. Most of us are hoping that there is no leopard inside the lab,” said 21-year-old Kanishk Soni, an electrical engineering student.
The feline was spotted barely a week after IIT had released a cautionary notice to the students and residents on the campus to stay away from certain areas between 6 pm and 6 am. “There have been occasions when leopards have been spotted around the campus and we release such cautionary notices every year. It’s shocking that a leopard has actually managed to sneak inside a lab,” said the IIT-Bombay PRO.