Forest Department suspects it to be the handiwork of poachers, as the traps were discovered on trails frequented by leopards and other wild animals
In what could be just the tip of the iceberg, two snares were removed by a team of volunteers assisting the Thane Forest Department (FD) in monitoring leopard activity inside the Aarey Milk Colony (AMC).
In leopard territory: One of the snares (below) discovered by volunteers from the team assisting FD officials to monitor leopard movement inside Aarey. Pic/Ranjeet Jadhav
Alarmed by the recent findings, FD officials suspect these wire snares could have been set up by poachers to trap any of the nine leopards roaming inside the colony or target the other wild fauna such as mongoose, wild hare, jungle cat and Small Indian Civet. Officials fear that an animal might lose a limb during its struggle to free itself from the trap.
The snares were discovered last week by the team in-charge of installing and monitoring camera traps. The team comprises researcher Rajesh Sanap, naturalist and wildlife photographer Nayan Khanolkar and volunteers Prabhu Swami, Kaushal Dubey, Imran Udat, Hitendra Pachkale, Kunal Chaudhari, Sudam Navle, Darshan Dhoke and Satish Lot. The team has been monitoring leopards for a year now.
“As per routine, we visit various trails inside the woods to check if everything is normal. During one such visit last week, I spotted snares. I immediately clicked pictures and removed them. They were installed on a trail frequented by leopards and other wild fauna,” said one of the volunteers.
The incident was reported to the Chief Conservator of Forest (Territorial) K P Singh, who has directed his staff to look into the mater and increase patrolling in the area from where the traps were recovered.
“The news is startling. Have taken serious note of it and issued directives that the matter be probed on priority-basis. Also, regular foot patrolling inside the forested patch in Aarey will be increased,” said Singh.
Following the discovery of snares, FD officials and the volunteers are now planning to rope in tribals residing across 27 adivasi padas inside Aarey to spot such traps whenever they enter the forest to collect firewood and immediately inform them.
Taking its toll
One of the guards posted at the Goregaon-side entrance of the AMC claimed the number of people passing through Aarey increased following cancellation of toll collection at the entrance, which he said was not good. “Earlier, when the toll plaza was operational, outsiders were prohibited from passing through Aarey post-midnight. Since the time BMC took over, number of people visiting the colony has increased. However, police personnel deployed at the entrance only allow residents to enter after 12 am. I think more patrolling is needed to avoid untoward incidents,” the guard said.
January 2016: A quartet was arrested from Dombivli for selling leopard skin and bones
December 2015: A leopard corpse was found near the Shilonda trail in SGNP, in officials suspected to be a case of poaching. An autopsy revealed an old injury and punctured internal organs. Forensic report is awaited.
November 2015: A decomposed body of a leopard was found in the Yeoor range of SGNP
2013: Four people were arrested for allegedly trying to sell a leopard skin outside the gate of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park