While officials of the Thane Forest Department trapped a leopard, whom the residents of Maroshi Pada in Aarey Colony believe had killed Shwetha Paghe (50) while she was answering nature’s call on Friday night, villagers said construction of public toilets in the area was needed to prevent future attacks.
One of the villagers said, “Politicians from all the parties visit our pada before elections, but disappear for the next five years after they win. We personally feel the only way to prevent further leopard attacks is by constructing community toilets in the area. Our children and women have to go in the wild to answer nature’s call. If the government constructs public toilets in our area, then such incidents will never happen. We will soon be writing to the local public representatives to take a serious note of the issue and construct public toilets at the earliest.”
Forest department officials set a cage in the pada on Saturday evening to capture the animal. Around 10.30 pm on Saturday, the leopard walked into the cage to eat the live bait that was kept inside to lure the animal.
Rakesh Wadkar, one of the locals, said, “We have been staying in the pada for ages and have often spotted leopards in the area. But we are shocked because this is the first time that a human being was attacked. I feel attacks can be prevented if the government constructs public toilets in the area, so that people don’t have to go in the open to answer nature’s call.”
Several such leopard attacks had occurred in the past when the animal mistook the crouching person for a small prey.
Commenting on the leopard’s capture, Director and Chief Conservator of Forests Sunil Limaye said, “First of all I would like to make it clear that the captured animal is a suspected killer, because we are not sure whether it was the same one that attacked the women. We have brought the animal to the leopard rehabilitation centre at SGNP and are monitoring its behaviour. The leopard is a full-grown male — aged between four and five years —and is already fitted with an electronic chip. Also, we have images of the same leopard that were captured through our camera traps. The animal is completely fit and at present has been kept under observation. We will release it back into the forest in a day or two.”
Local MNS Corporator Avinash Sawant said, “In order to avoid further attacks, I have decided to provide halogen lights to the villagers, which they should install in the area so that animal does not come near their houses. I will make sure that public toilets are constructed using corporator fund.”
Rajesh Sanap of Mumbaikars for SGNP, which works with Borivli national officials on a regular basis, said, “The leopard trapped on Saturday night is the one that was captured by our camera trap set at Kanheri caves a few months ago. I personally feel that attack on humans will come down if people ensure that somebody accompanies them whenever they step out to answer nature’s call in the night. They should always carry a torch with them.”