Officials of the Thane Forest Department set up a cage on the premises of the defunct Khatau Mills in Thakur Village, Kandivli (E) on Saturday to trap a leopard after the locals requested them to do so. But wildlife experts slammed the move as they feel that trapping and relocating leopards will only worsen the situation.
The locals said they have been spotting a leopardess with her two cubs for the last four weeks on the premises of the defunct mill, located in Thakur Village. They confirmed that though the animal was spotted on the premises of a residential society as well, it hasn’t attacked any of the locals, but has been preying on the stray dogs.
The locals approached the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and the Bombay Territorial Range of Thane Forest Department authorities after the leopard sightings became frequent. Based on their complaints, officials from both the departments visited and surveyed the area of leopard sightings.
“After visiting the area, we discovered that a lot of space is available in the mill for the animal to hide. We were not surprised about the sightings because the area is close to the park boundary. Such incidents will keep happening. Another reason why the leopardess is visiting the area is due of availability of stray dogs on the premises of the mill and the society. If the dogs are moved out from the society, I don’t think the leopard will come near it. We tried to explain to the residents that trapping the animal will only worsen the issue, but still they are of the opinion that the animal should be trapped,” a Forest Department official said.
Wildlife experts feel that the Forest Department is succumbing to the pressure from the locals.
Wildlife expert Krishna Tiwari said, “Trapping the leopardess with two cubs will only worsen the situation and increase the chances of man-animal conflict.
Rather than succumbing to the pressure from the locals, the Forest Department should have spread awareness and suggested preventive measures to avoid man-animal conflict. Residents should understand that trapping and relocating animals would create problems in the areas the leopards are released. Secondly, the territory of the relocated animal will be taken over by another leopard. So will the locals again demand trapping and relocation of the animal?”
Wildlife Warden for the city Mayur Kamath seconded Tiwari’s opinion. “Rather than pressurising the department, the residents of the society should install proper fences along the compound wall so that the animal does not enter the building premises. Leopards have something called as homing instinct. So irrespective of the place where they are released after trapping, the animal will come back to its territory,” Kamath said.
What officials feel
Commenting on the issue, Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) Thane R K Pole, said, “Trapping animals outside the boundary of the SGNP falls in our jurisdiction and residents of the Ekta Meadows society requested the department to trap the animal. They fear that man-animal conflict can happen as the leopard frequents the society to prey on stray dogs, which are easy to hunt. We have decided to trap the animal as a precautionary measure and permission for setting up the cage was taken from the officials concerned.”