Sunday thriller: a visitor from the wild to Andheri

Forest officials rescue leopard at a nursery school in Sher-e-Punjab Colony

Mumbai: Residents of Sher-e-Punjab Colony in Andheri (East) had an unexpected visitor on Sunday.

A female sub-adult leopard moved around, climbed trees – creating panic – and finally took refuge in a nursery school before officials from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) rescued her.

The leopard was spotted at 6.15 a.m. on the roof of a building. “The animal came from Gurudwara Joggers Park. She first roamed in the Sher-e-Punjab Colony number 6 before moving towards the colony number 5 and settling in Junior Crafting School in Punjab Colony,” residents said.

Being a Sunday, the school was shut, but its door was open. CCTV footage of the kindergarten showed the leopard climbing over furniture and attempting to spring towards the ceiling.

The police reached at 7 a.m. following which locals took football nets and with the help of forest department officials, built a makeshift net around the school. Subit Sabarbal, a resident, said, “The leopard was first spotted at the Gurudwara following which residents filed a complaint.”

11BMLEOPARD (1)
People gather outside Sher-e-Punjab colony to watch the rescue of the animal

Activist Pawan Sharma of Reqink Association for Wildlife Welfare said that the leopard was a female sub-adult aged between one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half years.

“The leopard was tranquillised (which is expected to last between 45 minutes and one-and-a-half hours). Since she felt lost and trapped, it sought refuge in the school. The leopard was visibly traumatised since she is not used to so many people being around,” Mr. Sharma said.

Jitendra Ramgautam, Deputy Conservator of Forest, said they were informed at 9 a.m. “The wildlife rescue ambulance arrived at 4.45 p.m.. The leopard was given a tranquilliser shot. But just as we decided to take out the leopard, it regained consciousness. It was finally rescued and brought in a cage at 7.45 p.m..”

While the rescue operation was on, the Mumbai Police ensured no honking by passing vehicles to disturb the animal. “The police did a great job along with the forest department and other officials,” said Ritu Sethi, owner of Junior Crafting School.

The leopard was taken to the SNGP. Dr. Shailesh Pethe, veterinary officer, SGNP, said, “She is at the SGNP rescue centre and is recovering from the effects of the tranquilliser. Being in an alien environment for over 12 hours, the leopard was under tremendous stress. She will remain at the rescue centre until a decision on her release into the forest is taken.”

This article was published in The Hindu. Click here.

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