The half-eaten corpse of a woman in her late 20s was found in the forest area in Bhandup on Sunday, taking the toll of people killed by leopards in the city this year to seven.
Lalita Chauhan, 27, who was killed in the attack, had been missing for a week. She was last seen when she had stepped out to answer nature’s call early one morning.
An official from Powai police station said, “The exact cause of death has not been confirmed yet and we are still waiting for the post-mortem results to ascertain the cause of death. Even though the body was partially eaten, we cannot blame the leopard and will only comment on the death after the results.”
Chauhan, a resident of Hanuman Nagar in Bhandup, had come to Mumbai two months ago. Eleven days ago, she had stepped out of her house but did not return. Her family and neighbours were unable to trace her. Her husband registered a missing person’s complaint at the Powai police station.
On Sunday evening, a local spotted her body in the forest after which he informed the police officials.
Locals suspect that the woman could have been killed by the same leopard which had killed a watchman at the water purification plant in Bhandup recently. However, wildlife experts rubbish the locals’ claims.
Environmentalist and an expert on leopards Krishna Tiwari said, “Even though the people staying in the area are saying that the woman was killed by the same leopard, I feel that it is not right to blame the animal. Unless the post-mortem reports are out we cannot jump to any conclusion.”
Advising locals living in the forested areas to be cautious, he said, “The only way to avoid man-animal conflict is by creating awareness. People staying in areas close to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) should make it a point not to visit the woods after 7 pm till dawn. If at all they go to answer nature’s call they should carry a torch along with them and ask someone to accompany them.”
In the last six months, six people have died in leopard attacks at various places in and around SGNP.