While the Thane Forest Department trapped two leopards in the last two days at Maroshi Pada near Aarey colony, the State Chief Wildlife Warden (SCWW) SWH Naqvi told MiD DAY that he is closely monitoring the situation and would personally see to it that the leopards are released safely after they were examined by the forest department. The captured leopards have been sent to the rehabilitation and rescue centre at Sanjay Gandhi National Park where there is already a lack of space to keep the animals.
On Monday, sources from the village around where the leopards were caught alleged that the Thane Forest Department set up the cages without taking proper permission from the SCWW. Speaking to MiD DAY, Naqvi said, “As it was a holiday, it was not possible for the officials from Thane to send an official mail, but as the matter was important we had given them verbal permission to trap the leopard that was lurking near tribal settlements outside the park. I am closely monitoring the situation and will see to it that after keeping the animal under observation, it is released in the forest where human-leopard conflict can be avoided.”
Sources from the forest department alleged that Thane Forest Department was not taking SGNP authorities into confidence before setting the traps. It is only after trapping the animal that the SGNP authorities are contacted, so that the animal can be taken to the rescue and rehabilitation centre at SGNP.
Space running out
Last year, MiD DAY had reported about the lack of available space to house leopards at SGNP (‘Housing crunch for leopards too?’). It was also stated that due to a lack of space at SGNP, two leopards were kept in one cage, in clear violation of environment ministry guidelines. With the leopards trapped in the Maroshi Pada also being taken to SGNP, the problem of space is expected to rise again.
Speaking to MiD DAY, leopard expert Krishna Tiwari said, “I don't know why the Thane Forest Department has started trapping the animal. Rather than doing this, there is a need for awareness to be done. I don't know how the forest department will determine which leopard had allegedly attacked a woman. Many times, other animals are also trapped by mistake.” He continued, “The forest department should immediately keep the leopard under observation and after inserting an electronic chip in its body, the animal should be released in the forest at the earliest because keeping a leopard in a cage for a long time is not right.”
Speaking to MiD DAY, Anil Todarmal from Thane Forest Department said, “The villagers staying in the area had complained about a leopard killing their goats and its sighting was taking place every second day. As a precautionary measure, a cage was set in the area on Monday morning by keeping live bait in it. At 8.30 pm, a leopard walked into the cage and got trapped. Another leopard was trapped on Sunday morning at the same spot.” Earlier this month, a leopard had attacked and killed a 50-year-old woman staying in the Maroshi Pada area in Aarey Colony. The next day, a cage was set by the forest department to trap the animal. It was caught the very same day and is now at the rescue center at SGNP.