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SGNP is not only home to leopards but also forms part of a larger landscape for wild animals (including leopards) in the region. Leopards can easily walk from the Western Ghats to Mumbai as we recently discovered ( see ). Leopards have always been part of the natural landscapes in the region, as were tigers till very recently. However, with forests shrinking the tigers are gone, while the highly adaptable leopards continue to hold on. Leopards will inevitably be sighted on the periphery of SGNP because of abundant food resources such as stray dogs, which live off garbage. A two decade-old study found that dogs formed 70% of the leopards’ diet in SGNP. There are also numerous records of leopards coming to villages, in many parts of India, to hunt dogs.

Thus, leopards have lived in close proximity with humans, but what we need to realise is that leopards will not harm us if we do not harm them first. You may ask then why did leopards attack so many people in and around SGNP from early 1990s till 2006? Since then there has only been one attack in 2007 and none thereafter. And yet leopards are seen routinely along the park’s periphery. The reason is likely to be due to the biologically inappropriate management interventions we were carrying out—since the late 1980s large numbers of leopards were trapped around SGNP every year. They were either released within the park or in distant forest areas like Tungareshwar and Tansa. Inexplicably, leopards trapped from these areas and even other districts of Maharashtra were released in SGNP. The prevalent assumption was leopards had no social connections and could be picked like pebbles from one place and dumped elsewhere. This resulted in animals injured during trapping as well as mothers separated from their cubs and vice versa, being released indiscriminately in areas entirely new to them.

Cats are highly territorial and know their area very well. If such an animal is removed and suddenly placed in a new place then the chances of conflict increase with negative repercussions for humans as well. Since 2006, leopard capture has been stopped by the SGNP administration. However, the public sometimes demand leopards be trapped after a mere sighting of a leopard. The Thane forest division (which governs forest areas outside SGNP) try to not trap as much as possible but it is also the responsibility of the public to not put pressure on the administration to carry out interventions that will have direct negative effects for people and leopards.

It should also be noted that there will always be a chance of an attack because leopards are potentially dangerous animals. However, deliberate attacks will be very rare if we keep our interventions to the minimum.

What worsens conflict are:

1. A mob gathers around a leopard
If a desperate cat is cornered, it may attack someone in a bid to escape. The recent Kanjurmarg factory episode ( illustrates how much these cats want to avoid us. It was trapped inside the factory and when it finally broke the door loose, it did not attack the people who were in its path but skirted around them and ran off (See ‘Blackman forever’). Though a leopard can easily kill a person, they typically avoid people but may attack in self defence if it is cornered and surrounded.. Thus always give it a way to go off and never surround a leopard
2. Pressurising the forest department to set up a trap cage
  The reason this intervention which was thought off as the answer for so many decades is the worst is because as you remove leopards from an area, more of them will come in to fill the vacant territories. They may travel 100s of km effortlessly like “Ajoba” seems to have done. This pattern has been observed in mountain lions and African lions, where if you remove some individuals others come in and occupy the empty territory. However, sometimes a mother is removed and her sub adult cub left behind. The cub might create more problems without the guidance of its mother, who would normally spend 2 to 3 years teaching the cub to hunt, avoid humans and other survival skills. So, if the leopards are living in an area without attacking humans, it is important that the same leopards be allowed to remain in the area, as they will not attack humans unless provoked.
3. Poachers killing leopards and the reasons as the same as the above. You will have injured animals or young animals without a mother and that can have negative consequences for us.

A list of practical methods to better live with the leopards so we minimise danger to ourselves

Recognise that leopards are resident in the area and mere sightings do not translate into danger.
Leopards do not recognise our maps of forest, national park, colony etc. However, they are sensitive enough to avoid contact with people and in fact do their best to avoid us.
Be alert after dark (when leopards are active), especially ensuring that children are supervised by an adult if they are outdoor. You could also put on the music on the mobile phone so that it knows that the creature walking along is a human which it goes out of its way to avoid.
Do not move about alone after dark and ensure you have a companion. This will alert any leopard nearby and reduce any chance of you being mistaken for prey animal.
If a leopard is sighted, give it right of way and allow it move off peacefully. Any loud actions or aggressive posturing may cause it to react with alarm (and panic), leading to unintended consequences.
If a leopard is sighted in the area, do not form a crowd around it. Crowds invariably get excited and the mob behavior will cause the animal to panic and it might harm someone in its bid to escape.
The only long term solution to avoid leopards within your colony or adjoining it is to ensure that garbage is disposed off well and that no feral dogs are present. If your colony has a dog then ensure its kennel is far away from the building because leopards are attracted to barking dogs from even 400 m away so they will come but once they know that the particular dog is well protected, they will decrease their incursions.

Finally leopards do not recognise our man-made park boundaries and they will come outside the park—they always have. It is in our hands to reduce that attraction for them and it is in our hands to put pressure on the civic authorities to ensure better waste collection. The reduction in garbage which attracts dogs and pigs and the proper disposal of organic waste (including waste from butcher shops and tabelas in Aarey) can reduce leopard presence around your buildings.

Have we missed anything? Get in touch and tell us! 

Call the local police station if you anticipate a law and order situation or the police control room at 100 as well as the local fire station or the fire brigade control room at 101. Most often, it is a situation of humans cornering a desperate leopard and the police can help disperse the crowds.
Control Room: 100, 022-22621855, 022-22621983, 022-22625020

Borivli : 022-28906606, 022-28930145

Aarey: 022-29272484, 022-29272494

Dindoshi (in Goregaon E): 022-28786300, 022-24691205

In case of a leopard emergency (say a leopard surrounded by mob or a person attacked), call the
Sanjay Gandhi National Park control room:  022- 28866449.
Thane Forest division control room number:  022-25445459.

Additionally you could call any of the following volunteers who would have a better idea to tackle the situation.
Name Location Numbers
Zeeshan Mirza Aarey, Goregaon East 96194 93448 / 96649 87540
Rajesh Sanap Aarey, Goregaon East 96649 87541
Vishal Shah Aarey, Goregaon East 96190 56222
Ashish Limaye Borivali East 9820501816
Sonu Singh Mulund Darshan 9833678828
Yogesh Band 30mins away from SGNP, Borivali East 8097582519