MUMBAI – (AFP) – Alarming video footage from India’s financial capital shows a leopard creeping into an apartment block foyer and snatching a small dog, which it quickly drags away from the scene.
The incident happened in a northeastern suburb of Mumbai next to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, which is thought to be home to at least 22 leopards that are drawn to urban areas looking for prey.
The leopard was captured on CCTV in the early hours of June 21.
“It is scary. A leopard getting into a building complex is not common. People are worried,” said G.P. Lagad, vice-chairman of the local housing society.
The incident comes as Mumbai police have been receiving special training in how to tackle the leopards, which have killed at least seven people since last July and attacked dozens in the past decade, forest officials say.
Lagad’s son Prakash, who also lives in the building, said the dog was the sixth, and the last one left, to be snatched from the grounds of the apartment complex over the years, despite various attempts to fend off the big cats.
“Nearly two years ago, we had put a bait of a goat and caught a leopard twice, which was then released into the park,” he told AFP.
“We have also written a letter to the local forest department and the civic authorities, seeking that we raise the height of the building walls to prevent such attacks.”
To help track movements of the cats, the society has now put up “focus lights” facing the park, which is one of the world’s largest urban forests at 103 square kilometres (40 square miles).
Forest officials have in recent times stepped up awareness campaigns to help people, pets and leopards to live harmoniously in the city.
But there are fears conflicts with wild animals will only increase as slums and other unauthorised settlements continue to encroach onto the forest, offering rich pickings for cats in search of small prey.
Vidya Athreya, a biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society in India, said it was important for children to play in well-lit areas at night, and for people to stay calm to prevent attacks.
“Just a leopard being seen can turn really ugly because people form a mob. In its attempt to run away it can injure people,” she said.
India’s leopard population was pegged at 1,150 in an official census in 2011. But animal conservationists have warned that the population is at risk of being decimated as a result of rampant poaching fuelled by a black market for its skins.