By Richa Pinto, Yogita Rao
MUMBAI: IIT-Bombay students on Thursday evening used a robot fixed with a camera to locate the leopard that was spotted in the metallurgical engineering and material science workshop in Powai a day earlier, but forest officials who watched the footage on a laptop were unable to detect any sign of the big cat. Two forest personnel were also sent into the lab in a caged trolley but to little effect .
K D Thakare, deputy conservator of forest-territorial, Thane, said, "25 forest officials are trying to trap the leopard. A few onlookers spotted it late on Wednesday night and our officials heard its movements. A trap, with a bait of four chickens in the lab, has been unable to attract the animal, which seems to be holed up in a corner."
IIT-B PRO Rashmi Uday Kumar said, "The leopard's exact location is still uncertain." Meanwhile, there were unconfirmed reports of another big cat being sighted elsewhere on the campus.
Pawan Sharma, founder of the NGO RAWW (Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare), who was present with forest officials at the Powai campus, said, "Many strategies are being planned by the forest officials to trap the animal. The remote-controlled mini-car sent in did not help. But since the leopard is a nocturnal animal, it gets active at night. He was located once on Wednesday night."
Vikas Gupta, chief conservator of forests, Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivli, said, "Animals do not understand boundaries and therefore they settle down wherever they feel that they can get a good place to hide. Probably that's why it went into the lab. Our team is only assisting the Thane forest team, which is leading the entire operation. Tranquilizing the animal seems to be difficult for the forest officials as the exact location of the animal is not known."
Forest officials said leopards generally hunt once in seven days, depending on how hungry they are, considering it is time-consuming and stressful.
The security officer on the campus issued an advisory for all residents on the second day after the leopard was sighted. It stated that rescue operations were in process by the forest department and the local police, and the residents were urged to be cautious. ''Forest officials or security section will be bursting crackers on the campus to drive away the leopard - if it is in hiding. Campus residents are requested not to panic on hearing the sound of crackers," it said. The residents were also urged not to gather at and around S1 Bay Lab, for smooth conduct of the rescue operation.
The advisory further stated that children should not move around unaccompanied at night. And that lonely and dark stretched of roads should be avoided in the evening. ''When dogs bark or run frantically at night, it may be taken as warning of the leopard's presence nearby. Leopards are afraid of light and crackers bursting. Hence, it is advisable to carry a torch and flick it around while moving at night within the campus area. Pet dogs should be kept indoors at night,'' stated the mail from the security officer.