Pune: Leopard Capture Not Enough as Another Alleged Sighting Sparks Anxiety In Chikhali Area

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Varad Bhatkhande

Chikhali, 30th December 2023: In recent days, residents of Chikhali, Moshi, Kudalwadi, and the surrounding areas have been living in fear as reports of leopards venturing into civilization from the nearby forests have surfaced. While authorities successfully captured one leopard on Thursday (December 28), a new video circulating on various social media platforms has reignited concerns about the presence of another leopard in the vicinity.

Leopards, being potentially dangerous wild animals, pose a threat to human beings and domestic animals. Pune has witnessed several instances in the past few months where leopards have attacked small children and domestic animals, intensifying the apprehension among the residents of Chikhali and its neighbouring areas.

Sanjeevan Sangale, President of the Chikhali-Moshi Pimpri Chinchwad Housing Society Federation, expressed the community’s distress, stating, “The residents of this area are in fear. Two days ago, they captured a leopard that was initially caught on CCTV camera, but reports from yesterday suggest that another leopard has been spotted. We advise people not to venture outside alone and to stay in groups.”

Residents are using various society WhatsApp groups to share information and updates about leopard sightings. Maruti Parit and Shahaji Pawar, residents of Chikhali, shared their concerns, saying, “Even after the first leopard was captured, many people claimed to have seen a leopard yesterday afternoon. Reports indicate leopard sightings near the banks of the river Indrayani. With the Christmas and New Year holidays, we can stay at home for now, but when the regular schedule resumes, the fear may persist. We urge the forest department and other authorities to use drone cameras to inspect our area.”

Leopards, known for their speed and ability to hide effectively, have prompted residents to express their fears about venturing outdoors. Chikhali Police Inspector Dnyaneshwar Katkar stated, “We are coordinating with the forest department. Although we were patrolling yesterday, we couldn’t spot the leopard. It could be a rumour or even a case of misunderstanding leopard for other animals, but our preliminary inspection suggests that there was no leopard in that area yesterday.”

Speculations about the reasons behind the leopards venturing into the civilization abound. According to a forest officer in the Junnar Forest Division, ongoing sugarcane cutting near the forests has caused many leopards to move away. Additionally, a decrease in grass due to weather conditions and cutting has led these animals to search for food closer to civilization.

Despite the potential reasons behind the leopards’ presence, residents remain unsure about what actions to take in such a situation. Chikhali Range Forest Officer Santosh Kank assured, “We are regularly patrolling the area and have provided guidelines to people, such as avoiding dark areas, moving in groups, and keeping animals in enclosed spaces to prevent leopards from entering.”

He emphasized that in case of an emergency encounter with a leopard, remaining calm is crucial. Kank stated, “Remember, the leopard fears you more than you fear it. If you stay still and don’t disturb the leopard, it is unlikely to harm you. However, attempting to run or making sudden movements increases the risk of an attack.”

Authorities continue to monitor the situation closely, urging residents to follow safety guidelines to minimize risks associated with leopard encounters.