Mumbai: Control room to monitor Aarey's ferocious leopard in real time

Sep 11, 2017, 20:30 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

Thane forest department sets up special control room, equipped with high-end tech, to trap big cat that attacked several people in the last six months

In a first, the Thane Forest Department (territorial) has set up a small control room to track a ferocious leopard, which is suspected of being behind attacks in the last six months at Aarey Milk Colony, Goregaon. Here is where researchers track footage of leopard activity each night. A set of four CCTV cameras have been installed in the path frequented by leopards, while another one has been placed near the trap cage, so that if a harmless leopard approaches, the research team can use a hooter to scare it away.

The control room has been set up in the area, where researchers conduct leopard-monitoring activity each night. A set of four CCTV cameras have been installed in the path frequented by leopards, while another one has been placed near the trap cage, so that if a harmless leopard approaches the cage, the research team can use the hooter to scare it away. This model to trap the leopard is being tried for the first time in Mumbai, forest officials said.

While four CCTV cameras have been installed in the path frequented by leopards at Aarey Colony, another one has been placed near the cage

Leopard identified
The forest department had set trap cages around a month ago to catch the suspected leopard that allegedly attacked kids at Aarey and the adjacent Goregaon Film City area.

On July 23, a leopard allegedly killed Vihaan Nilesh Garuda, 3, near Morachapada in Film City. Vihaan was the son of a Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) staffer and was visiting his relatives, when the alleged attack took place. What was shocking was the fact that the leopard attacked the child in broad daylight, when he was walking on a 20 ft-wide road that passes through a forested patch. Based on CCTV footage, forest officials were able to identify the leopard that was later found roaming in the vicinity of the attack. The distinct rosette pattern on its skin was the clincher, an official said.

The forest department then approached the Chief Wildlife Warden and Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) of Maharashtra and installed trap cages in Film City area.

Trapping the big cat
But, after forest officials were unable to trap any leopard in Film City, they decided to place another one in Aarey Milk Colony around 3 weeks ago. "Since a few leopards roam here, we don’t want to trap the wrong one. Hence, we’ve set up a small control room, where a group of researchers monitoring leopard activity will do a 10-hour shift every night, to make sure that the wrong leopard does not gets trapped," said Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) Thane Forest Department (Territorial) Sunil Limaye.

Researchers, who conduct leopard-monitoring activity at Aarey Milk Colony, have been scanning the footage. Pic/ Pradeep Dhivar

Researcher Rajesh Sanap, Honorary Wildlife Warden of Mumbai (suburbs) Mayur Kamath, leopard researcher Nikit Surve from the Wildlife Conservation Society (India), along with volunteers Kunal Chaudhari, Hitendra Pachkale, Imran Udat, Kaushal Dubey and Prabhu Swami, are the part of the team that has been posted in the small control room.

"The technique is being tried for the first time and hence, we are using it on a trial and error basis," said a researcher.

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