'Workers sleeping in the open attract leopards'

Forest department asks contractors to provide housing to migrant labourers after spate of incidents; to file police complaints against them if attacks persist

Taking cognisance of the recent leopard attacks wherein a 12-year-old girl and a senior citizen was killed in Virar and Ghodbunder, the forest department has decided to serve notices to the contractors of the brick manufacturing units. The reason: officials claim that the migrant workers sleeping in the open have attracted the wild cats causing an increase in attacks.

Mauled to death: The half-eaten body of 70-year-old Harishchandra
Ghorat was found in Kashimira on Sunday. Authorities claim it was a
leopard attack. Pic/Pramod Dethe

At present, there are many workers working at the various brick-manufacturing units few metres away from the border of Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWS) in Virar and Vasai area. The workers sleep in the open, as contractors, who hire them, have made no accommodation for them.

Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) of TWS and Director of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) Sunil Limaye said, "Everyone staying in the area is aware of the fact that there is frequent movement of leopards in the area during night and so we have even requested the locals staying on the border of the TWS to try and avoid sleeping in the open as it increases the chances of human-leopard conflict. Heeding our pleas, many have taken to sleeping indoors, but the migrant workers continue to sleep outdoors as their employers refuse to provide them with any kind of housing, which is the main reason for the increase in leopard attacks."

According to officials, there have been five incidents of leopard attacks in the Tungareshwar area alone and the victims were ones who were sleeping outdoors. "The contractors of the brick manufacturing units don't provide rooms to the workers. This is wrong, as the workers aren't safe. Hence, we have decided that we are going to serve the contractors with notices making it mandatory to provide housing and if our instructions are not heeded and an attack occurs, we will file a police case against them for endangering human lives," added Limaye.

Leopard attacks
>> A few days back, eight-year-old Chirag Patil playing near his hut in Shivansai jungle, Virar, was suddenly mauled by a leopard. As soon as Chirag started screaming for help, the leopard left him and the injured boy was taken to a hospital for medical treatment.

>> On Sunday Vandana Pingle(12), who was staying with her family at one of the brick manufacturing units was mauled to death by a leopard when she  had gone to collect fire.

>> In another incident, a dead body of 70-year-old Harishchandra Ghorat was found in the forest near Kashimira area of Mira Road on Sunday morning. The body was badly damaged and half eaten. Ghorat had gone missing a day earlier.

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