Ritesh Mohan Valvi (3)
Ritesh Mohan Valvi (3)

Nearly three years after the last man-leopard conflict in Khadakpada, a tribal hamlet inside the forests of Aarey Milk Colony, a three-year-old boy was attacked last night by a leopard in his backyard. Luckily, the child survived the encounter after a neighbour scared the animal away by raising a ruckus.

Ravi Bhusare saved the child
Ravi Bhusare saved the child

The incident took place between 8.30 pm and 8.45 pm on Monday night, when Ritesh Valvi was playing behind his uncle's home. The leopard was crouched behind a pile of firewood, and was first spotted by a neighbour, Ravi Bhusare.

Sandeep Baraf, the victim's uncle, with Ravi Bhusare
Sandeep Baraf, the victim's uncle, with Ravi Bhusare

At first, Bhusare mistook the big cat for a dog, but soon realised otherwise. "I immediately warned all the children playing outside to go inside. Ritesh went running towards his uncle's home, when the leopard pounced on him. On seeing that the leopard had grabbed Ritesh, I raised a din. Within seconds, the animal fled the spot," recalled Bhusare.

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Locals point to the spot of the leopard attack
Locals point to the spot of the leopard attack

Ritesh has suffered injuries on his chest and throat and was treated at a private hospital at Vijay Nagar, Marol. He is out of danger and likely to be discharged tomorrow.

Ritesh and his parents live in Marol and were in Khadakpada to attend a family wedding. "Since the summer vacations are on, the mother and child decided to stay at our place for a day and were going to leave on Tuesday. But on Monday night, the leopard attacked the child," said Ritesh's uncle, Sandeep Baraf.

Locals are shaken up by the incident since it's been three years since the last man-animal conflict was witnessed here. While leopards are commonly sighted in these forests, they usually prowl in search of poultry or stray dogs. The villagers believe the leopard may have mistake the child for prey. Residents claimed they once again saw the leopard nearby after the incident.

Following the episode, the Thane Forest Department (Territorial) has increased patrolling in the area and camera traps have been installed to check the activity of the big cats in the area. The process of issuing compensation to the victim's family has also begun.

Khadakpada is surrounded by a forested patch, and villagers continue to demand that authorities install more powerful streetlights to keep leopards at bay.

Chief Conservator of Forest, Thane (Territorial), Sunil Limaye said, "The incident that took place is really unfortunate and our officials are investigating it. Camera traps have been installed in the pada to check the movement of leopards."