Is it a tiger? Is it a leopard?

Published: 07 November, 2011 07:41 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav |

A milkman claims to have seen a tigress with cubs in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, but forest officials are convinced that what he saw must be a leopard

A milkman claims to have seen a tigress with cubs in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, but forest officials are convinced that what he saw must be a leopard

If Balu Shinde is to be believed, you may not have to travel to the distant Tadoba Tiger Reserve or Ranthambore National Park to spot a tiger anymore. The 46-year-old milk distributor claims to have spotted a tigress and her two cubs behind Mahananda Dairy in Aarey colony on Friday.

Stripes or spots: After a sighting of a leopard at Aarey milk colony
forest a few years ago, officials used cages to try and trap the cat.
SGNP officials are now verifying claims of a milkman who says he spotted
a tigress with two of her cubs behind a dairy in Aarey milk colony in
Goregaon (East). file pic

The forest officials, however, refute his claims and say that it's not possible to spot a tiger in Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) for the simple reason that there aren't any in the park. They believe that Shinde must have spotted a leopardess, which locals have frequently spotted in the area, roaming with her two cubs.

 Bombay Natural History Society Project Head (Forest) Krishna Tiwary said, "With no evidence, it's impossible to say that a tiger was spotted within the limits of the Aarey colony area."

No doubt it's a tiger
Shinde, however, is adamant that he saw a tiger at 8.45 pm on Friday. He said, "My colleagues and I were standing within the premises of the dairy when we heard people screaming, claiming that they have spotted a tiger. We immediately rushed to the gate in our jeep towards the Aarey colony forest. With our headlights switched on, we reached the gate; I was shocked to see a full-grown tigress along with her two cubs. We then saw them run into the forest." Shinde added, "I am certain that the creature I saw was a tiger. It had stripes on its body and not black spots like leopards do."

In 2003, tribals residing in the forest claimed to have seen a tiger at Nagla block, towards the northern end of SGNP. In order to verify their claims, officials from the forest department undertook a detailed study in the area. After verifying the pugmarks and looking at the bullock that was killed by the predator, it was confirmed that the animal spotted by the tribals was indeed a tiger. Since then, however, there have not been any tiger sightings in or around the park.

Taking note of the reported sighting, the estate department of Mahanand Dairy has written a letter to SGNP. Another letter has been dispatched to the local police station.

Chief Conservator of Forests and Director of SGNP Sunil Limaye said, "As soon as we received information that locals had spotted a wild animal, we sent our team to the spot and installed two camera traps in the area, so that images of the animal can be captured, if it visits the area again."

An animal expert revealed that the chances of a tiger sighting in the area were very slim. "The SGNP forest is a highly disturbed forest. There are many human settlements inside the park and tigers cannot adjust themselves in this kind of forest, as they prefer a dense forest as their habitat. If tigers were dwelling in the SGNP forest, they would have mauled the tribals. Tigers cannot stay in close proximity to human settlements, the way leopards can. The man must have seen a full-grown leopard."

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