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Opinion

Pregnant leopard dies in traffic accident on Mumbai Western Express highway

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A three- to four-year-old female leopard identified as L98 was found seriously injured in a traffic accident on the Western Express Highway (WEH) near Kashi Mira, Bhayander around 12:30 a.m. Sunday, and subsequently succumbed to injuries.

The leopard was one month pregnant with three fetuses, forestry authorities said.

According to Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) director and forest curator G Mallikarjuna, the injured leopard was rescued by a SGNP team and taken to the facility’s leopard rescue center.

“However, the leopard succumbed to its wounds during treatment at 2.15am. A team of SGNP veterinarians performed an autopsy on Sunday afternoon, where it was discovered that the leopard was pregnant with three fetuses, ”said Mallikarjuna.

The autopsy revealed that the cause of death was probably mainly due to the collision with a vehicle. “It was due to a strong mechanical impact (probably vehicular in origin) that caused multiple hemorrhages, multiple fractures and muscle damage that resulted in hypovolemia (a life-threatening condition due to high blood loss) and respiratory arrest,” added Mallikarjuna.

Wildlife Conservation Society wildlife biologist Nikit Surve, who has been assessing leopard numbers in and around SGNP annually, said L98 was first photographed in October 2018 in the village of Ghodbunder. after local residents had seen the animal.

“At the beginning of last year, the leopard was seen on the opposite side of the road near Kashi Mira, Bhayander, which showed that it had crossed successfully. Also, about seven days ago the leopard was spotted in one of our camera traps near Kashi Mira. However, it is extremely unfortunate that you encountered the accident probably while crossing the street on Sunday because it is not easy for animals to understand the oncoming traffic. It’s even more heartbreaking that she was pregnant, ”Surve said, adding that leopards don’t stop hunting or moving until the moment they stop calving.

Dr. Shaliesh Pethe, Senior Veterinarian, SGNP said that the gestation period for a leopard is three months. “This leopard was one month pregnant. Externally (photographs) one can identify that a leopard is pregnant only within the last 15 days before giving birth, ”he said.

The SGNP and outlying areas are home to at least 47 big cats that include the transient population moving between SGNP and into surrounding landscapes, according to a 2019 estimate from Surve and SGNP. Data from SGNP, NGO Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) and Mumbaiikars for SGNP revealed that 19 leopards had been killed around SGNP, most of them on the Western Express Highway and Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWS) from 2008 to 2018.

“Unless we provide adequate mitigation structures (under or overpasses) on roads, railways and canals, we will lose most of our large mammals to linear infrastructure, very quickly,” said Anish Andheria, president of the Wildlife Conservation Trust.

A previous assessment under the ‘Mumbaikars for SGNP’ initiative in 2013 revealed that 40 leopards were killed in road accidents on the outskirts of SGNP between 1994 and 2012.

“In the last two years, cases of accidents involving animals have been reduced as road widening work is being carried out at WEH. Due to less traffic during Diwali, the vehicles were moving faster, which led to this unfortunate incident. However, we have suggested various mitigation measures along this route and we are trying to accelerate its construction with the project proponents as soon as possible, ”said Mallikarjuna.

In addition to the Mumbai incident, another leopard was killed in a traffic accident on Saturday near Satara on National Highway 4 connecting Pune and Bengaluru. The country recorded 83 leopard deaths in traffic and train accidents in 2019, the highest in a decade, according to the Wildlife Protection Society of India. Of them, 73 died in traffic accidents and 10 were run over by trains. Additionally, there was a 278% increase in these types of deaths due to road and rail accidents from 2010 to 2019.

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