Residents spooked over leopard pugmarks in Sainik Farms
The leopard was spotted multiple times in residential lanes last week, but has not been seen since Sunday night.
A leopard spotted in Sainik Farms has left residents of the south Delhi locality that abuts the southern Ridge forest spooked, with the discovery of pugmarks convincing them that the animal is still in the area. Forest department officials and wildlife experts, however, said that the pugmarks were old, and added that there was no fresh evidence that the animal was still in the locality.
The leopard was spotted multiple times in residential lanes last week, but has not been seen since Sunday night, leading forest department officials to believe that the animal had likely returned to the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, which the southern Ridge is a part of. However, on Tuesday night, Rahul Saigal, a resident, complained that his pet dog started barking incessantly since 10.30pm, and on Wednesday morning, pugmarks were discovered near his house.
“We have a German Shepherd who roams in our front lawn at night. On Tuesday, around 10.30pm, he yelped loudly and rushed inside. He then started barking and continued to do so for an hour… Around the same time, many of the street dogs also started barking,” said Saigal.
Hardeep Singh, president of Western Avenue Residents’ Welfare Association (WARWA) at Sainik Farms, said, “We alerted the forest department as soon as we got information from one of our residents, and their teams reached by early afternoon,”
Incidentally, the pugmarks were discovered around 300m from a trap set up by the forest department to catch and rehabilitate the leopard back in the sanctuary.
Forest department officials, however, said the pugmarks were old. “After we received complaints, our team has begun patrolling the area, and the traps are still laid. However, we have no confirmation of fresh pugmarks or sighting since Sunday, when it was last seen,” said Mandeep Mittal, deputy conservator of forest (south division).
Sushil Jain, founder and president of Bail-a-tail, an NGO that works on wildlife rescue, added, “We had conducted a thorough search operation, but we did not find anything. Even the pugmarks in sand that we have seen today are older and there is nothing new to confirm that the leopard has been here in the last three days.”
Sainik Farms residents, though, are still fearful. WARWA’s Singh said, “We have now put up banners in English and Hindi, informing residents to be alert as there may be a leopard in the area. We have also deployed three quick response teams on motorbikes, who are going door-to-door and checking on residents as well as checking for any fresh pugmarks or evidence of the leopard.”
To be sure, Sainik Farms is deemed an unauthorised colony and its status has been a subject of litigation for years.
The southern Ridge, which includes the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, is an extension of the Aravallis and large parts of this extend into south Delhi neighbourhoods including Devli, Sainik Farms and Neb Sarai among others.
Last month, the forest department had informed a National Green Tribunal (NGT)-appointed oversight committee that over 314 hectares of the southern Ridge was still encroached upon by farmhouses and residential colonies. This included encroachments across 19 villages in Tughlaqabad, Rajpur Khurd, Chhattarpur, Dera Mandi, Jaunpur, Aya Nagar, Satbari, Saidulajab, Maidangarhi, Neb Sarai, Asola, Bhatti, Rangpuri, Sahurpur, Devli, Rajokri, Ghitorni, Mahipalpur and Pul Pehladpur.