Two weeks ago, a leopard attacked a boy at Maroshipada, Aarey Colony. Following the attack, the Thane Forest Department set up a cage at the spot to catch the feline. The watchers struck gold, or so they thought, when one spotted a cat wandering into the cage last morning around 5.15 am.
However, disappointment was in store for them when it came to light that the trapped leopard was not the one that had attacked the boy. It was a much smaller cat and, on further investigation, it was found that this leopard was ‘Bindu’, a female leopard, a frequent visitor to the area and a harmless one at that.
Apart from the locals, forest department officials and researchers who have been working with the ‘Mumbaikars for SGNP’ initiative of the national park have sighted Bindu in Aarey Colony many a times. Unfortunately for everyone, Bindu is known to have been trapped thrice in Aarey Colony, for no fault of hers.
Yesterday, soon after the leopard got trapped, MiD DAY reached the spot and saw the animal quietly sitting in the cage. “After we came to know that a leopard was trapped in the cage, we went to the cage with a family member of the boy who was attacked on January 1 who had seen the leopard. The relative told us that this animal was not the same as this one looked much smaller than the attacker,” said Rakesh Wadkar, from Maroshipada.
Following the discovery, a rescue team from SGNP - led by Assistant Conservator of Forest Santosh Saste and Sanjay Pagare - arrived at the spot to safely transport the animal for a medical examination. Veterinary doctor Sanjeev Pinjarkar examined the animal and declared it fit.
Speaking to MiD DAY, Pinjarkar said, “It’s a female leopard weighting 34 kg. We have examined her and checked her canine tooth and claw nails. The animal is not injured in any way which means she is safe for release.” Since over two years, volunteer Rajesh Sanap and Zeeshan Mirza - who work with the Mumbaikars for SGNP initiative - have been following the big cat from the time she was four months old.
“More than two years ago, Zeeshan and I were working on our project on Biodiversity of Aarey when we saw that a small leopard cub was sitting quietly under a tree. We tiptoed near the cub and still it kept sitting quietly. Later, we decided to call her ‘Bindu’ because of the beautiful spots on her body. As months passed, we spotted her in a residential complex in Aarey Colony during the night. It is interesting to note that Bindu, by habit, moves in an area that is populated but, till date, has never attacked anyone.
At times, locals staying in the residential colony have even sent us pictures of Bindu. Some residents have even pointed out that, even after seeing humans in close proximity, Bindu always prefers sitting quietly. She has never come in the way of the inhabitants. This also proves that leopards and humans can co-exist.”
However, this has not been the first time that Bindu has been trapped. She has walked into traps thrice in the past two years. The officials have always tried to release her in areas far away from Aarey colony, but she always returns to her place of birth.
Chief Conservator of Forest and SGNP Director Sunil Limaye said, “The trapped animal is completely fit. After checking the code from the chip set in its tail, we found that it is a female LF 14 - known by the name Bindu. The decision to release her will be taken at a later stage but, at present, the doctors have declared her fit for release.”
The Forest Department has already trapped three leopards from Maroshipada in the last two-and-a-half-months. Yesterday’s trapping was the fourth one. However, the fact remains that the animal that attacked the boy is still at large. According to locals, two big leopards have been sighted in the area that might be responsible for the attack on the boy. Till the time of going to press, the cage - that was removed after Bindu’s capture - hadn’t been replaced.
Trap record of Bindu
She was trapped for the first time at Hotel Renaissance, Powai on November 8, 2011. She was tranquilised and taken to SGNP after she entered the hotel premises, and was later released.
She was again trapped at Aarey Milk Colony, unit number 28, on February 27, 2012.
Following that, she walked into the cage at Maroshipada on November 20, 2012.
Last, she was caught at Maroshipada yesterday.
“Trapping the animal does not really solve the problem as they mainly work on pure luck. Many times there are chances that innocent animals, like Bindu, get trapped,” biologist and leopard expert Vidya Athreya said. “We have camera traps set in Ahmednagar and are able to keep an eye on the leopards. Once we found that on one night, there were three different leopards that walked the same path. So you never know if the trapped animal is the right one or not.”