The Uninvited Visitor: A Leopard Roams Free in Delhi’s Sainik Farms

In the heart of Delhi’s bustling Sainik Farms, an unexpected and awe-inspiring visitor disrupted the routine tranquility. On the morning of December 2, Virender Singh, a vigilant 35-year-old guard, bore witness to an extraordinary sight—a leopard gracefully making its way into the forested enclave of this upscale, gated community. What ensued was not just a rare wildlife sighting but a phenomenon that triggered panic among the residents, altering their daily lives and prompting authorities to respond swiftly.

The Unusual Encounter

Sainik Farms, a locality accustomed to occasional encounters with mongrels, monkeys, and other wildlife, found itself grappling with skepticism when Singh first shared his account. Located a mere few kilometers from prominent landmarks such as the Saket Metro station and Select CityWalk mall, Western Avenue seemed an unlikely setting for a leopard sighting. However, Singh’s unwavering claim led fellow guards to investigate, uncovering undeniable pug marks in the vicinity. Videos capturing the leopard’s urban stroll quickly circulated through local WhatsApp groups, amplifying anxiety among Sainik Farms residents.

The Leopard’s Origins

To unravel the mystery of this uninvited guest, experts turned their attention to the Aravallis, a sprawling mountain range stretching from Gujarat to Delhi. Over the years, leopards have found sanctuary in the Aravallis, with the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary situated a mere 2km north of Sainik Farms’ boundary. Leopards, renowned for their adaptability, thrive in the rocky terrains of the Aravallis, preying on various wildlife species. Studies conducted by organizations such as the Wildlife Institute of India and the Centre for Ecology Development and Research underscore the increasing leopard population in the Aravallis.

The Aravalli Leopard Population

A 2016 study by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) recorded the presence of 31 leopards across a 128km stretch in the Aravallis in Haryana. Significantly, this number had risen from a mere eight in 2012. A subsequent 2019-20 study by the Centre for Ecology Development and Research (CEDAR) and WWF-India covered a nearly 200-km stretch of the Aravallis, revealing that the Mangar Bani stretch has a higher density of leopard sightings compared to the Asola sanctuary.

Impact of Encroachment and Conflict

Encroachments, illegal construction, and mining activities on the Haryana side of the Aravallis have encroached upon the leopard’s natural habitat, compelling them to explore more urbanized areas. A year-long mammal census carried out between 2021 and 2022 by the Delhi Forest department and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) found at least eight leopards in the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary—an unprecedented number.

Roadkill Deaths and Human-Wildlife Conflict

Since 2015, around 10 leopard roadkill deaths have been reported around the Aravallis, primarily in the Gurugram-Faridabad region. This includes juveniles attempting to cross from one forest patch to another. The increasing human-wildlife conflict underscores the urgent need for preserving the leopard’s natural habitat.

A Lesson from Mumbai

Drawing parallels with Mumbai’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park highlights the need for a proactive approach to address human-leopard conflicts. Mumbai, confronting a similar scenario, adopted a forward-thinking strategy to create awareness and educate residents on harmonious coexistence with leopards. Initiatives such as the “Mumbaikars for SGNP” project shifted the focus from capturing and relocating leopards to promoting awareness about precautions and cohabitation strategies.

Mumbai’s Model of Coexistence

The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) in Mumbai, spread across 120 sq km, is home to approximately 40 leopards. Awareness workshops, posters on precautions, and the establishment of control rooms have contributed to reducing incidents of human-leopard conflicts. The emphasis is on coexistence rather than capturing and relocating leopards, as studies have shown that translocation can increase the likelihood of attacks on humans.

Heightened Vigilance in Sainik Farms

In response to the leopard’s presence, Sainik Farms implemented swift measures, including forest patrols, installation of nets, and the formation of a quick-reaction team. Residents are advised to exercise caution, especially during nighttime, and the Resident Welfare Association (RWA) plans to enhance security measures with illuminated areas and CCTV surveillance. Calls for additional protective measures around the Asola Bhatti sanctuary underline the necessity of preserving the leopard’s historical habitat.

Resident Precautions and Initiatives

Residents have formed a quick-reaction team (QRT), relying on sticks and rusty rifles to patrol the area. The RWA has installed banners on the edge of the forest, cautioning residents about the leopard’s presence and advising them to avoid specific areas. Plans to light up the forest area and install CCTV cameras facing the forest are underway.


As Delhi grapples with the coexistence of its urban sprawl and wildlife, the leopard’s escapade in Sainik Farms serves as a poignant reminder of the delicate balance between progress and preserving natural habitats. The ongoing saga urges authorities and residents alike to adopt a Mumbai-inspired model, fostering awareness and understanding to ensure the peaceful cohabitation of humans and leopards in the evolving landscape of the Aravallis. The tale of the wandering leopard is not just a wildlife spectacle; it is a call to action for sustainable coexistence in the urban wilderness.

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