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'Released leopardess may return for cubs'

While residents of Kolshet in Thane heaved a sigh of relief after the leopard that prowled around their premises was trapped, the residents of Shahpur and the villages nearby fear that they may be paid a visit by the two-year-old female leopard soon.


On the spot: A villager points to the spot in Kolshet where he had spotted the leopard. Pic/Sameer Markande

The animal was trapped in one of the cages set by the forest department officials in Kolshet. Immediately after it was trapped, officials performed a medical examination on the animal and released it into the Shahpur forest belt, after finding it to be healthy. However, if Kolshet residents are to be believed, the female may have been a mother of two cubs.

This means that the mother may roam into one of the villages near the Shahpur forest, searching for her cubs, increasing the chance of man-animal conflict.

Two cubs
Leopard sightings have been taking place in Kolshet for more than a month. On August 14, MiD DAY had visited Kolshet, where a trap had been placed near the abandoned premises of a company, where the leopard had been spotted.

Locals and the watchman of the company had reported sighting a leopard with two cubs. Pandhrinath Thakur, a resident of Kolshet Varcha village had claimed seeing a leopard in his village.

The guard, sitting at the gate of the abandoned premises, said, “On August 12, at around 9.30 pm, I was sitting near my cabin along with another guard, when we saw a full-grown leopard and a cub walking on the main road. When the animals saw us at the gate, the leopard and the cub vanished into the bushes.”

When questioned about the possibility of the leopard returning for its cubs, Sameer Deshpande, deputy forest officer, Thane Forest Department, said, “I cannot comment on that. All I can say is that we have released the leopard in its natural habitat. We won’t disclose the location.”

Wrong move?
Wildlife experts believe that it was wrong on the part of forest officials to shift the leopard from one area to another. Speaking to MiD DAY, wildlife expert Krishna Tiwari said, “Before trapping the leopard, the forest department authorities should have checked whether the leopard had cubs. If she has cubs that are still in the Kolshet area, there are chances of man-animal conflict, because she will immediately start searching for her cubs. It’s a problem for both the mother and the cubs.” 

According to Tiwari, the leopard caught in Kolshet was well aware of the area. Having been set free into a new area, the leopard might try to attack people, as it is not used to this area, he said. 

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