In the past one year, more than 10 animal attack incidents have been reported from the residential areas adjoining Aarey and Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
Last year, a sub-adult female leopard was caught by forest officials after it had attacked seven persons over a period of two months. The forest officials had set up four cages inside the forest area to catch the leopard.
Meanwhile, following Monday’s incident, forest officials have set up one cage and 12 cameras across a one-km radius of the forest. “The cages have been covered with shrubs and a bait has been put inside for catching the leopard. A decision on whether to increase the number of cages will be taken up later,” said an official.
Forest officials added that they will also be monitoring the camera traps to track the leopard’s whereabouts and movements. Meanwhile, the leopard attack incident on Monday, in which a toddler lost her life, has instilled fear amongst local residents living inside the Aarey forest, thus fueling the issue of yet another man-animal conflict.
Locals expressed their fear about their day-to-day lives inside the forest. Puran Tarji, a 59-year-old resident of Unit 15 of Aarey Colony, said that he has been living inside Aarey since he was born, but this is the first time that such a brutal incident has taken place.
“In the past five years, the frequency of attacks has increased. It is mainly because of the changing demography of the entire area that the animals are coming out to areas of human habitation for their catch,” said Tarji.
Another resident, Mohamed Hussain, said, “Leopard spotting used to be a common phenomenon here. Everyday, we used to see a leopard at least twice a day, but they never attacked. Now they are attacking. Last Friday, there was another incident when a leopard attacked a teenager but the child had a narrow escape.”
This is the first incident in Aarey forest when a human death has occurred due to a leopard attack in the past five years.
In 2017, a two-year-old toddler died after a leopard attacked him near the Film City helipad. “Sighting is a common phenomenon in the entire Aarey village. We spot leopards every second day and that is a normal part of our lives. Sightings take place frequently between Unit 15, 16, 17 and 18 since these spots are located inside the denser parts of the forest. But this is the first time that a child has died due to a leopard attack,” said a neighbour of the victim.