Poached leopard in Film City identified; her cub's survival in question
Decomposed body found ensnared identified as that of Paani, who had been photographed several times hunting prey inside Aarey
The identification of the leopard poached in Film City has come as a shock for researchers at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. They've discovered that the leopard was a beloved one from their database. She was identified as L-28, whom the researchers had named Paani. After finding this out, they are now worried about the fate of her cub.
The leopard's decomposed body was found trapped in a metal snare around its abdomen near the set of a TV serial in Film City on Monday. The leopard's body was taken to SGNP for carrying out formalities including the post mortem. Photos were taken of both of its flanks to match the rosette patterns in the leopard images database at SGNP and Aarey Milk Colony.
Challenge to match rosette
As the body of the leopard was in a decomposed state, it was a challenging task for the researcher to match its rosette patters with those of the 45 leopards photographed during the study carried out in 2017-2018 by biologist Nikit Surve from the Wildlife Conservation Society - India at SGNP, Film City, Aarey Milk Colony, and IIT Powai.
Paani's carcass that was found caught in a snare last week
On Thursday, Surve began the challenging task of matching the rosette patters to those in his database. Surve said, "Identifying the rosette patterns of a dead leopard is a bit difficult, but SGNP officials and I wanted to see if we had this animal in our database of leopards photographed using camera traps during our study last year. The rosette pattern of the dead leopard has matched with L-28, which is none other than one of our favourite leopards named Paani. Her death has shaken me and the entire staff."
Paani was first photographed in the summer of March 2015. She was named Paani, which means water, as she was first spotted near a waterhole. Researchers told mid-day that that back then, she was also found with a male named Orion, who used to roam in Aarey and Film City.
Cub in the wild
In the summer of 2017, the researcher had also photographed Paani through a camera trap in SGNP and Film City. One of the photographs showed her taking away a rodent in her mouth. In the summer, it was photographed with a cub. The cub must be roughly a year-old by now. After its mother's death, the question of its survival remains. However, the cub was photographed walking without its mother a few months ago, which raises the possibility of it surviving by itself in the wild.
Four more snares found
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Thane Forest Department (territorial) team along with their leopard rescue team and volunteers, carried out a combing operation in the area and four more snares. "Our team has found four more snares and the investigation into the leopard and sambar death case is in progress. All I can say is that our investigations are heading in the right direction and those responsible for setting up snares will face strict consequences," said a Senior Forest Department Official who did not wished to be named. Sources from FD also confirmed that a few suspects have been called for questioning.
Officials take note
Taking a serious note of the incident, forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar has asked the forest secretary to submit a report in four days. On Thursday, additional principal chief conservator of forest M K Rao, deputy conservator of forest Dr Jitendra Ramgaonkar, assistant conservator of forest Girija Desai, range forest officer Santosh Kank also visited Film City and interacted with its management to bring to their notice the seriousness of the issue.
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