Speeding vehicle kills leopard on Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway

Mumbai: A five-year-old male leopard died near Vasai Phata on Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway after it was hit by a speeding vehicle that was going towards Ahmedabad on late Tuesday night.

Wildlife experts feel that there is a need to construct wildlife crossing at important locations and boards mentioning animal crossing areas should also be installed so that vehicles reduce their speed while passing through these locations.

Leopard
Pic/Ranjeet Jadhav

A study conducted under the 'Mumbaikars for SGNP' initiative of SGNP in 2012 revealed that 40 leopards have died in road accidents along the periphery of SGNP between the years 1994-2011. A majority of the accidents took place on the stretch between Ghodbunder village and Vasai, near Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWS).

Last year also a young leopard had died in a road accident and the SGNP authorities had claimed that they would take measures to curb the rate of animal road accidents along with the installation of boards but not much has been done in this regard.

Last year, SGNP Director Vikas Gupta had told mid-day that he will be speaking with the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to find solutions and would try to restrict speeding of vehicles in that area, where animals cross frequently.

Speaking to mid-day, Assistant Conservator of Forest (ACF) Uday Dhage from Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary said, “On Tuesday night at around 11-11.15 pm a full grown male leopard that was crossing the north bound stretch of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway near Vasai Phata was knocked down by an unknown speeding vehicle following which it died on the spot.”

The SGNP and TWS forest team including Range Forest Officer G Ahire immediately rushed to the spot but the animal was already dead. Later the animal was brought to SGNP where the doctors performed autopsy. “The animal appears to be over five years of age and all its body parts were intact. The reason for the death seems to be due to the injury and impact on the animal’s head,” stated another forest official.

The eyewitness to the incidents claim that a male and female leopard were crossing the road but as the male leopard was ahead of the female, it got hit by the vehicle after which the female leopard ran into the bushes. However, forest department team did not confirmed the same and on Wednesday the team also conducted a search operation in the forest to see if another animal was not injured.

A case against an unknown person for negligence and rash driving has also been registered and the authorities are investigating into the matter.

What experts have to say?

Speaking to mid-day Krishna Tiwari, Forest and Wildlife Conservation Centre said, “It is really unfortunate to see any animal dying while crossing the road and in order to stop this authorities should plan the construction of wildlife crossing or underpass so that the animals can safely cross from one side to another. Another important thing that should be done is that of installing reflective signboards which give information to the vehicles that there is a wild animal crossing area and so the speed of the vehicles should be reduced. Installing the speed breakers at accident prone locations on Thane-Ghodbunder road , Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway stretch passing near the forested patch is a must.”

Do you know?

In April 2014, a one-year-old leopard was killed in a hit-and-run accident in the wee hours near Ghodbunder village on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway. The leopard was the 41st animal to be killed in highways near Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in the past 20 years.

According to the findings of the report prepared by ‘Mumbaikars of SGNP’, there has been an average of two leopard deaths every year due to road accidents. The numbers shot up in the years 2002 and 2007, with seven and six deaths recorded respectively. The data also indicates that accidents are significantly higher between December and May, with December being the most dangerous. They are less frequent in the monsoon months. On the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway, leopards are most vulnerable on the stretch between Delhi Darbar Inn and Kolli Chowki, along with spots around Chena.

'Mumbaikars for SGNP' initiative of SGNP in 2012 revealed that 40 leopards have died in road accidents along the periphery of SGNP between the years 1994-2011.

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