Mumbai, the financial capital of India that attracts millions in search of fame and fortune is home to nearly 22 million people making it the most densely populated city in India and the seventh most populous city in the world. But there’s another face to India’s financial capital shadowed by popular impressions and island of ancient forest thrives within the heart of Mumbai.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) a hundred square kilometre oasis represents the greener extreme of Mumbai and is said to be the lungs of Mumbai as it is biologically rich and provides the bustling metropolis with clean drinking water among other important ecosystem services. Amongst the crazy 22 million humans that live here, approximately 45 leopards and counting call Mumbai’s SGNP it’s home.
The Sanjay Gandhi National Park, formerly known as Borivali National Park, is located in the northern part of Mumbai and apart from leopards is home to several diverse species like the Spotted Deer, Black Naped Hare, Barking Deer, Porcupine, Palm Civet, Small Indian Civet, Mouse Deer, Rhesus Macaque, Bounet Macaque, Hanuman Langur, Indian Flying Fox, Ruddy Mongoose, Sambhar and more than 40 different species of reptiles.
In this oasis surrounded by massive urban population of around 21,000 people per square kilometre leopard human interactions and conflicts are inevitable. In the past fear prevailed over reason and leopards were blindly branded villains, captured and relocated until scientists discovered that it did more harm than good. Now back with scientific
Understanding, together with best traditional and modern practices a people's movement is taking shape. Mumbai is pioneering an eye of a shrinking world, The art of coexisting peacefully with this adaptable big cat and a predator!
Best Time To Visit:
So the best time to visit SGNP will be definitely the monsoon season. As the park is lush and green and a lot of migratory birds visit the park during this season, making it a heaven for bird watchers and nature lovers. The beautiful long and challenging trails through the woods and cliffs is a sight not to be missed. Keeping city’s heavy rainfall in mind, checking the weather forecast is a must!
The Human Wildlife Conflict:
Over the past few years the Leopard population is thriving in SGNP. While the news of the Leopard population rising in the park calls for a celebration, there is a looming threat of too many leopards in a limited space. Big cats need big territory to exist in peace, however, the space of the National Park is limited and the population has been increasing over past couple of years.
The authorities rather focus on the fact that despite Mumbai having a huge human population, the cases of the human-leopard altercation are very less and it has been on a decrease, which is a remarkable feat to achieve.
SGNP is often in the news as the site of conflict between people and wildlife, mainly leopards. The forest department of SGNP has taken a proactive step to help manage the park better, mitigate conflicts and engage with the local citizens of Mumbai.
The Forest department of Mumbai has launched a project called ‘Mumbaikars for SGNP’ to assess and assist leopard conservation and mitigate man-animal conflict in and around the park, by involving scientists, students and other local public . The main objective of the project is to use basic scientific methods and involve interested people in Mumbai to better understand the beauty, importance and challenges the leopards and the Park face, in an effort to focus positive action by Mumbaikars to better manage the park, and man-animal conflicts.
With the residents being educated by such projects no leopards have been captured or killed in Mumbai since 2013. when left alone leopards following their natural instinct avoid people hence no attacks on humans have been reported either in the last two years in and around SGNP as against up to 30 attacks a year between 2003 and 2005.
The situation is now gradually changing, this is a big achievement and Mumbai has come a long way from experiencing severe conflicts to finding solution for peaceful coexistence. This was possible because general citizens were part of it realizing the values this park and leopards add in their urban lives. Thankfully an increasing number of citizens are now working towards this positive change!
How To Get There:
Sanjay Gandhi National Park is located in the northern part of Mumbai and is easily accessible via Western Railways services from Borivali Station. From the station, you can hire an autorickshaw or taxi to the park. If you are driving, you can access the main entrance from Borivali East from the Western Express Highway.
Being a national park, there are many rules and regulations one must follow while visiting SGNP. I'd recommend you don't venture off the park's main roads, trails and designated areas as that can attract a heavy fine and get you in trouble.
However, a visit to Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a must- it allows you to experience nature at its best without having to travel too far away from home. Spotting a leopard here is not easy, and the lucky ones can spot these beautiful cats during early morning hours or late evenings.
Thing To Carry:
- Camo Clothing Breathable - As the humidity is very high
- Water Repellent Jacket - For monsoons
- Waterproof Boots – for challenging and long trails inside SGNP
- Good Binoculars – for bird watching, as lots of migratory birds visit SGNP during the monsoons
- Backpack & Water