At 11 pm Saturday, Usha’s mother Sapna took her into the forest near their house to answer nature’s call. According to the police, the girl was squatting on the ground while her mother was standing some distance away when a panther grabbed the girl by the neck and took her away.
Sapna raised the alarm and her family gathered at the spot. After a night-long search, the body of the girl was discovered early on Sunday morning. “At 6.45 am, the search party found her mangled body near the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s training complex. The hands and neck were missing. Only the head and legs were recovered. We registered a case of accidental death,” said an officer from Bhandup police station.
Forest officials said panthers do not normally attack humans because there is ample prey for them inside the forest. “It was a random attack. The girl was sitting, which made it easy for the panther to carry her away. There are no night patrols in Tembipada but after this attack, we will have men patrolling the area at night. We will set up traps to catch the panther,” said Sudhir Padwale, Assistant Conservator of Forests, Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).
This is the fourth attack by an animal in the past five months. On November 5, an unidentified 50-year-old man was found dead in Khindipada in Mulund (West). The body had scratches on his face and his right hand was missing. Three days prior to that, a woman in Aarey Milk Colony was attacked by a leopard and dragged away. Family members heard her scream, but were unable to save her or find her remains. On July 16, six-year-old Sanjana Thorat was killed by a leopard at Shankar Tekdi in Mulund.
Padwale said residents need to be careful but do no pay attention to repeated warnings by forest officials. “We have advised them not to wander outside homes after dark. But they do not listen to us,” he said.