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Inadvertently captured leopard released after radio collaring

Leopard C33 was radio collared with government permission, making her the third leopard ever to be radio collared in the larger Aarey-SGNP-Tungareshwar area

The forest department on November 9 released female leopard C33 at an undisclosed location with a radio collar, as part of a study by the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) administration and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which commenced in June last year.

C33 was inadvertently captured in a cage trap in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony on November 1, instead of her sibling C32 — identified as the leopard responsible for a recent spate of attacks on humans in the area.

Dr Shailesh Pethe, wildlife veterinarian at SGNP, who examined the animal, said, “The animal was observed as per protocol and found to be fit for release. Its movements are being monitored by WCS and the forest department. I cannot comment on the radio telemetry exercise since I am not involved [in it] except in instances where the leopard does not move for a certain period of time, or the radio signal suggests that the animal may not be ok.”

While C32 remains under observation at SGNP’s rescue centre and an eight member committee headed by the state wildlife warden and Dr Pethe will decide the animal’s fate, C33 was radio collared with government permission, making her the third leopard ever to be radio collared in the larger Aarey-SGNP-Tungareshwar area. The others include L93, who is nicknamed Maharaja and L115, who is nicknamed Savitri.

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One of the aims of this study, researchers explained at a press conference on Wednesday, is to understand the movement of leopards across urban and forest landscapes, and to identify movement corridors between the protected areas of SGNP and Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWLS). This is the third time in nearly a decade that the movement of a leopard across SGNP and TWLS is being documented, and the second time using radio-collars.

Radio-collars allows scientists to triangulate the GPS location of the animal in real time. The first such instance was that of a leopard named Ajoba, whose 125km journey from Malshej Ghat to SGNP in 2010 has been widely cited in press reports. At the time, Ajoba had entered SGNP through Vasai Creek.

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