‘Leopard attacks up four-fold in recent times’
Earlier this month, a leopard was spotted sitting on the boundary wall of a row house at Royal Palms in Goregaon. On Saturday, another wandered into Whistling Woods, an academy in Film City promoted by filmmaker Subhash Ghai, again at Goregaon. And on Sunday night, a six-year-old girl was killed by a leopard that dragged her into the forest.
Vishal Manve talks to Deputy Conservator of Forests (Thane)G T Chowhan about the rising incidents of human-animal conflicts in thearea.
Can you explain the reasons for rise in leopard attacks in the city?
Animals look for easy prey and travel huge distances for food. As the food supply was plenty earlier, only a few leopards were sighted in human habitation areas. But owing to encroachment and dwindling food supply, leopards move into cities, which provide food easily in the form of cats, dogs and other domesticated animals. This leads to increased contact with humans. The boundaries or fences put up cannot stop them and the conflict, attack and counter-attack begin.
What measures are you taking to prevent such incidents?
We cannot use combat measures without citizens’ help. These incidents have risen four-fold in recent times. People should not go outdoors at night. Putting fences/ boundaries is a basic step in preventing disaster. We have started patrolling all prone areas and set up emergency lines for citizens. We were informed about the Mulund incident around 11.55 pm while the incident occurred at 10.30 pm. It should have been sooner but we managed to reach the spot by around 12.30 am.
The problem with an angry mob is that proper details are not available and that creates a lot of problems for us in understanding the incident. That is why we request people to be as clear as possible with regard to facts and the sequence of events. Instead, they turn violent. Violence won’t solve the problem. Peaceful co-existence will. Such incidents cannot be predicted, but we can control the emergency situation through co-operation and finding solutions.
But there is a need for avoiding such human-animal clashes. At best, what can be done?
It is imperative that residents do not go out alone at night. Children must be always accompanied by parents and never left alone in secluded spots. The Forest Board has a control helpline number that dispatches a team in cases of emergency. The number must be kept handy and one can also keep checking the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) website for any news or details.
If people have any queries, they can call up forest officials of the area as SGNP/Thane and other parts fall under different jurisdiction.
How should people living around forest areas deal with the situation?
Earlier, animals had their space and humans had their areas. Now, we have residential areas just next to boundary of forests. Animals are restricted in their movements due to encroachment by humans. Such close proximity leads to tension and conflict. We should try to maintain balance and respect these creatures but keep ourselves prepared for any contingency.