An official said a proposal to fence the pedestrian pathway has been sent to the Centre.
Devotees making the difficult climb to the Tirumala Tirupati Balaji temple will now have to carry one extra thing - a stick to fight off wild animals.
After a 6-year-old girl was killed by a leopard on the way to the temple last week, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams has put a range of measures in place to avoid a repeat. Pilgrims taking the pedestrian pathway to the temple will now have to go in batches of one hundred, accompanied by a security guard.
Every devotee will also be given a wooden stick to defend themselves in case of a wild animal attack. "We will provide everyone with a stick, no matter how many are required," said B Karunakar Reddy, chairperson, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD).
To avoid attracting wild animals, devotees and food stalls on the route have been advised not to litter food. Devotees have also been told not to feed monkeys, said a TTD official.
The official said a proposal to fence the pedestrian area has been sent to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests for clearance, because the temple is located in a reserved forest area.
Given the rush at the temple, however, some of the measures have made devotees unhappy. "We come from such faraway places. If they don't allow children after 2 pm, we will end up having to wait the whole night, till 5 am the next day," said Swati Kiran, who has a six-year-old son.
"Instead of stopping pilgrims, they should provide extra security or fence the pathway," said another devotee, Balakrishna Goud, from Hyderabad
Six-year-old Lakshita and her family were using the pedestrian pathway to get to the temple when she was attacked and killed by a leopard on Friday night. She had strayed from the path after the family had refused to buy her something, and her body was later found in some bushes.
The leopard which is suspected to have killed Lakshita was trapped 48 hours after her death, but forest officials say there are more wild animals - including leopards and sloth bears - in the area.
TTD officials said 500 CCTV cameras are being installed along both the pedestrian routes connecting Alipiri and Tirumala and another connecting Srivari Mettu (the lord's footprints). "If necessary, drone cameras will also be procured. Animal trackers and doctors will also be made available round the clock," an official said.
Focus lights are being installed so that there is a visibility of 30 metres around the pedestrian path. Signage warning of wild animal attacks will also be placed at Seventh Mile, Galigopuram, Alipiri and other key points.