The time on the recording on the surveillance camera overlooking Hill View building near the Sanjay Gandhi National Park reads 3.37 am.
It is February 26. In the cover of dark, a cat, a fully-grown, big cat, the one with spots, sidles into the premises. Warily, without so much as a muted growl, this leopard approaches what appears to be a couple of strays lazing in the parking area near the main gate of the compound.
In a Darwinian world, the leopard would have sunk its fangs into one of the strays and walked away with its bloody, yowling carcass, happy to be getting an early-morning bite.
But these city dogs were in no mood to be a cat’s breakfast. In less than one minute, one of the canines, who locals call Rocky, is seen barking his head off and managing to chase away the fierce feline!
When the cat ran away: After Rocky’s bravery was captured on CCTV, locals have decided to call the dog 'Tiger'
The residents of Hill View cooperative housing society in Goregaon (East) are wowed by his valour, and feel this top dog deserves a new name, Tiger.
Rocky on his turf
Rajan Maykekar, a resident from the building, said, “A couple years ago, when I’d take my pet dog Juno for a round in the area, I used to see Rocky outside our building. He was a cute puppy at the time and I decided to get him inside the building to protect him from the rain.
Resident Rajan Maykekar points out the watering hole right behind their building. Pics/Vishal Yadav, Prashant Waydande
Everyone in the building started loving him because he is very loving. When the leopard entered our building, it was Rocky who chased it out, not only saving his life but that of another dog lying next to him.
Running a leopard out of the building is a big task for a dog, and from today, we have decided to call Rocky Tiger, because only a tiger can chase away a leopard.”
Meanwhile, in order to keep away leopards from their cooperative housing society, the residents also plan on installing floodlights on the building premises and a wire fence on the compound wall.
The Thane forest department team has been nightly visiting the building premises for the last three days, and locals claim they, too, spotted a leopard on the second day, right outside the complex.
When MiD DAY visited the terrace of the building, we saw that right behind is a natural waterhole, a draw for wild animals from the sanctuary nearby. The building’s inhabitants are, of course, afraid of carnivores freely entering their habitat.
But there are some wildlife lovers here who think that there is no need to panic. “When we are staying so close to a national park (SGNP) it’s obvious that a leopard or some such sighting will take place. Rather than blaming the animal, people should take more precautions,” Mayekar said.
Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) K P Singh, of Thane Forest Department, said, “Our patrolling team has started their visits in the night to the building. We will interact with the residents and tell them about the precautions that need to be taken. For the time being, I would suggest that if they see a leopard, they should immediately inform the Thane FD so our team can reach the spot.”
Leopard expert Vidya Athreya said, “The society is close to the national park and the locals need to take some precautions. The society should keep the stray dogs in a net cage at night. The leopard gets attracted to the dogs as they are easy prey, and once it realises that there are no dogs in the building, it will never enter the premises.”
Rocky is no underdog: Watchmen
Dark-brownish Rocky is over two years old. Although a stray, he’s been staying at Hill View society for the last two years. Earlier, he used to sleep on the road outside, but building resident Ranjan Mayekar, an animal lover, got him inside.
Mayekar would take his pet Juno for a walk when Rocky became friends with her, and got a free pass to enter and stay at the building. The security guards say that Rocky is a very alert dog and helps them watch over the building at night. The day the leopard came, it was Rocky’s vigilant pluck that the watchmen sitting a few yards away realised what was going on, they said.
'Tell us how to minimise conflict'
Amrut Narayan Khose, chairman of the residential society, said, “There are 168 families staying in our society and there are 60-70 small children who play on the society premises in the evening. With leopard sightings in the area, we have stopped sending our children out to play after sunset.
We have already informed the SGNP and the Thane forest department and we expect the authorities to visit our society and tell us the measures and precautions we should take to avoid clashes with animals.”
Not the first leopard at hill view
This isn’t the first leopard sighting at Hill View. More than a year back, a leopard had entered the building, and the next day, residents found a half-eaten dog in the complex. Presumably, the big cat couldn’t carry it over the high compound wall.
On one other extraordinary occasion, the residents claim they saw four leopards at one time just behind the building. Charlie, one of the residents even shot a video of the sighting. He said, “As our building is just a few metres from SGNP’s boundary, sightings are bound to happen. More than two years back, I shot a video from our building of four leopards seen together, which is a very, very rare sighting.”
He added, “We are not shocked about the leopards, but with children around, we want to be safer and we expect the forest department to come to our society and guide us about what precautions we can take to avoid man-animal conflict.”
168: no of families residing in the building
500: no of people living in the building
70: no of children in the building
3: no of stray dogs in the building
6: no of pet dogs in the building
>> After 3.30 am last Wednesday, CCTV shows a leopard entering the building
>> But Rocky springs into action and puts the big cat to shame, chasing it off
>> Residents will now call him Tiger