Mumbai: Forest guard found dead near Tulsi Lake, speculation of leopard attack quashed by park authorities

FPJ BureauUpdated: Wednesday, May 29, 2019, 10:26 PM IST
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Mumbai: The body of a Sanjay Gandhi National Park forest guard was found in Tulsi Lake in the wee hours of Thursday, igniting speculation that it was the handiwork of a leopard. Forest staff spotted the body of Swastik Katkar (30) and informed their seniors, after which a team was rushed to the spot.

Speculation of Katkar dying due to a leopard attack was quashed by the park authorities. “People have jumped to the conclusion, even though the post-mortem report is not yet out. Nothing can be said before the cause is ascertained,” said Anwar Ahmed, Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF), SGNP. Ahmed added that leopards are not the kind of animals that attack without provocation; also, among the big cats, leopards are the only species known to be people-friendly.

Preliminary police investigations revealed that Katkar, along with some friends, had ventured into the restricted area allegedly for merry making. He was reportedly in an inebriated state and may have died due to accidental drowning. Shripad Kale, Senior Police Inspector, Mulund police station, said, “There are no physical injuries on his body. We are waiting for the final post-mortem report from the hospital. Prima facie, it seems to be a case of accidental drowning.”

Doctors, too, said that there were no injury marks on the body of the deceased. “The deceased was brought dead to hospital and we did not see any abrasions or injury marks.  As of now, leopard attack has been ruled out, but it is possible that he may have drowned in water,” said a Rajawadi Hospital doctor. “The post-mortem will also show whether he had consumed alcohol,” he added. There are in all 41 big cats in SGNP. As many as 27 new leopards had been camera-trapped in SGNP and its surrounding areas during the forest department’s 2017 census, taking the tally of big cats to 41 in 2017 from 35 in 2015. Of the 41 leopards now sighted, 15 are male, 23 are female and the gender of three is yet to be established.

Leopards are one of the world’s most adaptable big cats, feeding on more than 100 prey species worldwide. The big cats of Mumbai live alongside people, mostly in informal settlements, and they hunt and kill dogs in and around villages. On an average, dogs make up for about 40% of a Mumbai leopard’s diet.

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