It was the dead of night, but when Suraj Gavai, 28, heard his dog growling and whining outside the house, he couldn’t resist checking on his pet. But when he opened the door, he found an entirely different animal staring at him – a leopard. The big cat sprang at Suraj and gouged his eye.
Suraj was rushed to hospital, where his condition is stable. Experts are calling the incident an ‘accidental attack’, as the leopard likely pounced out of fright. A camera trap was put up in the area and patrolling was boosted following the incident.
The incident took place at 2 am on Sunday, when the Gavai family was fast asleep in their room at Mulund’s Rahul Nagar slum pocket. The area falls under the Tulsi Range of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), which is home to several leopards.
Suraj woke up when he heard his Rottweiler yapping desperately outside the house, where it had been chained. Second after he opened the door to check on the dog, the leopard swiped at his face at him. His parents woke up to see him in pain and blood. They instantly raised the alarm and called Suraj’s elder brother Jayesh, who lives nearby. “My wife and I quickly rushed there to see the doorsteps covered with blood. Suraj was in pain. We rushed him to the local hospital. While we are praying for his quick recovery, we are also frightened since the incident,” said Jayesh.
Suraj was moved to KEM hospital due to the serious nature of his injuries. Having undergone a surgery on his right eye at the Parel hospital late on Sunday morning, he is currently under observation. The dog suffered a minor injury too, and was taken to a local vet hospital, where his condition is said to be stable.
“The patient was evaluated by ophthalmology, general surgery and plastic surgery departments. He has contused lacerated wounds (CLW) over the right lower eyelid and scalp. The plastic surgeon sutured the CLW in the plastic operation theatre; the wound was sutured too. In the wake of the patient feeling giddy after taking scalp sutures, we have admitted him. His condition is currently stable,” said Dr Avinash Supe, dean, KEM hospital.
High leopard activity
Wildlife and human-leopard conflict experts told mid-day that a combination of factors contributed to Sunday’s incident. Krishna Tiwari, founder of the Forest and Wildlife Conservation Society (FWCS), said that the area, with its proximity to SGNP, is prone to leopard activity.
“The area is often unkempt and leopards in search for food are frequent visitors. Upon hearing the dog bark, the man should not have opened the door to begin with,” Tiwari added.
Nikit Surve, a leopard researcher from Mumbai said, “The leopard and the man caught each other by surprise. In distress and panic, the leopard attacked the man.”
Pawan Sharma, honorary wildlife warden with the Forest Department, said, “Just last week, locals had reported a leopard sighting in the area. Citizens need to be vigilant and abide by the dos and don’ts listed by the authorities.
He added that following Sunday’s incident, camera traps were installed in the area to track leopard movements. Patrolling is also going to be increased. Despite repeated attempts to contact Jitendra Ramgaonkar, deputy conservator of forest, he remained unavailable for comment.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)