Mumbai: Does Aarey Milk Colony have a rogue leopard attacking kids?
Officials suspect the leopard that killed a 2-year-old in Film City might also be responsible for three other attacks that took place in the vicinity over the past few months
A leopard was spotted on the Film City wall on Saturday evening, just 300 metres away from where the boy was attacked
After a 2-year-old boy was killed by a leopard in broad daylight in Film City on Saturday, in the fourth such attack in as many months, the forest department now suspects that the same animal is behind all the incidents.
Each of the leopard attacks in the last four months have one thing in common – the victims were all children. On Saturday, two-year-old Vihan Nilesh Garuda, the son of a staffer at Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), was snatched by a leopard as the family was walking through a forested patch in Film City, Goregaon. A few hours after the attack, a leopard was spotted just 300 metres from the spot, sitting on the boundary wall of Film City.
The spot where the leopard snatched the child
An official from the forest department said, "It is difficult to say what exactly is the reason behind the attacks, but if we take a look at the history of the attacks in the last four months, all the targets are children. There are chances that there is one specific leopard that is responsible for the incidents."
Vihan Garuda was killed in a leopard attack in Film City on July 22
Saturday's incident took place between 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm, when little Vihan and his family were returning from the helipad area in Film City - a popular spot to take photos but restricted to public entry. A family member told mid-day, "We had gone to visit relatives at Morachapada and then went to the helipad. We were walking back and the child was running ahead of us when the leopard came out of the bushes, grabbed the boy and disappeared into the forest."
The family members immediately began to shout in an effort to scare the leopard away and find the toddler. They found the boy a few hundreds metres away, still alive. But by the time they could take him to Siddharth Hospital in Goregaon West, he had died. The same evening, range forest officer Santosh Kank and ranger Sameer Inamdar led a team from the Thane Forest Department (Territorial) and the Leopard Rescue Team to the spot. A leopard had been spotted on the wall just 300 metres away, but officials could not say whether it was the same animal that had attacked the boy.
On Sunday afternoon, Dr Jitendra Ramgaonkar, deputy conservator of forest, and Shailesh Deore, range forest officer, also visited the spot. It was decided that camera traps would be installed in the area to identify the animal. Five camera traps have already been installed there. The forest department will check the footage from the camera traps and match it with the database of leopards from Aarey Colony and SGNP to find out which leopards frequent the area.
Ramgaonkar told this reporter, "During our initial investigations, it was found that the area where the man-animal conflict took place is a restricted area. We have informed the Film City authorities and their patrolling team to ensure that no one is allowed to enter, in order to prevent any further incidents."
'Follow the rules'
Honorary wildlife warden of Thane, Pawan Sharma, who is also the head of the NGO RAWW, said, "The incident is very unfortunate and our sympathy is with the family. Two of the adults who were accompanying the child were staffers at SGNP and Film City - not outsiders who may not be aware that there are big cats around. However, this is not to blame them, as nobody went there expecting a big cat to appear. But it's important to remember that wildlife is unpredictable and it's best to stay out of their territory."
"Three previous incidents had already happened in Aarey this year, followed by several awareness sessions, where people were told not to leave children alone. People should stay away from restricted areas and adults should always accompany their kids while passing through forested patches," he added.
>> March 20: Pranay Rinjad (3) injured at Chafyachapada, Aarey Colony
>> May 15: Ritesh Valvi (3) injured in the chest and throat in Khadakpada, Aarey Colony
>> May 29: A four-year-old boy injured during evening walk in Royal palms, Aarey Colony
No. of camera traps installed in the area
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