Adding to the fatalities of man-leopard conflict, 4-year-old Hiya Peter Mhase was killed in an attack that occurred outside her residence in Khadak Pada in Aarey Milk Colony yesterday morning.
According to one of Hiya’s relatives, “Around 6.15 am, Hiya told her grandmother that she wanted to go to the toilet and the old lady accompanied her. It was when the grandmother came inside the house to fetch water that we all heard Hiya screaming for help. When we rushed outside the house, we saw a leopard dragging her away into the bushes.”
Soon after the big cat dragged Hiya into the nearby bushes, a team of villagers set out to search for the girl. It took 45 minutes for them to trace the girl following which her family rushed her to the hospital. Doctors of the civic-run Siddharth Hospital in Goregaon said there were canine marks on Hiya’s throat and that the girl had breathed her last before her arrival at the hospital.
One of the villagers, who as part of the search team, said the leopard had dragged the girl for nearly 150 metres and when they spotted the animal, it had a firm grip on Hiya’s throat. It was only when they pelted stones at the leopard that it dropped the child and ran for cover.
The locals said that the main reason for the tragedy were non-functional solar lamps and lack of public toilets in the area. The residents went ahead and even accused the local corporators of doing nothing for them and said the only time these politicians visited the padas was before elections to garner votes.
One of the locals, who has been residing in the pada for the last 15 years, said leopards avoided areas that were lit properly. “The attack could have been avoided had the street lights been functional. None of the solar lamps have been maintained since their installation,” the local added. A tribal, who has been residing in area for over 50 years, said the attack was a result of the rampant encroachment and the subsequent deforestation. “The house where the attack took place is not an original adivasi habitat. All those living there are encroachers. Earlier, there were only 20 adivasi houses in this pada but today the number is 40,” the tribal said.
Officials of the Mumbai Territorial Range of Thane Forest Department visited the spot where Hiya was attacked and installed a cage to trap the leopard. Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) Sudhir Padwale said, “It is an unfortunate incident and we have installed a cage to capture the animal. Our patrolling team is on high alert and will keep strict vigil in the area during nighttime. The family of the deceased will get Rs 5 lakh, of which Rs 1 lakh would be given by this evening itself.”
Sunil Bhor (11) too was attacked by a leopard yesterday. “He was returning home with his father when the animal attacked. There were claw marks on the boy’s neck. He was rushed to the Life Line Hospital in Malad and is stable,” said an official from the Aarey Police Station.
>> In the first week of September, a leopard attacked 28-year-old plumber Guddu Kewat while he was on his way home
>> In January, a boy was killed in a leopard attack which occurred at Adarsh Nagar in Aarey Milk Colony