Six injured as wild leopard sparks panic in Indian city

The predator arrived in Meerut near Delhi on Sunday and has evaded capture

LAST UPDATED AT 13:11 ON Tue 25 Feb 2014

SIX people have been injured by a wild leopard in the northern Indian city of Meerut after it strayed into the town was seen prowling around hospital, a cinema and an apartment block. The predator appeared to have been cornered inside the hospital but dramatically evaded capture by bursting through a wall.

Authorities closed schools and told market traders to close their stalls in the city, 60km north of Delhi, after the leopard was seen wandering the streets on Sunday, The Guardian reports.

Wildlife officers tracked the animal to the empty ward of an army base hospital and shot it with tranquiliser darts, district magistrate SK Dubbey told AFP. "But despite that he managed to break [out through] the iron grilles and escaped. He then sneaked into the premises of a cinema hall before entering an apartment block. After that we lost track of the cat," Dubbey said.

The dramatic moment was caught on camera.

Six people have been injured by the leopard since its arrival in the city of 3.5 million people on the weekend. Authorities have urged market traders to remain closed until the animal is caught.

Efforts to capture the animal have also been hampered by crowds of people hoping to catch a glimpse of the wild cat when sightings have been reported.

It is not unusual for the big cats to stray into populated areas in India and the animals are regarded as extremely dangerous. Last week another leopard mauled a five-year-old boy to death in the central state of Chhattisgarh, NDTV reports.

The latest incidents raise "concerns about depleting habitats for big cats which is forcing them into populated areas", says AFP. According to a 2011 census conducted by conservation groups, there may be as few as 1,150 leopards left in the wild in India.

"Leopards are large territorial mammals, they need space to move around. Some of their corridors are getting blocked so there is bound to be an interface," Deepankar Ghosh of WWF-India told AFP. "We can't put all the leopards into cages. We can't remove all the people living near forested areas. We have to manage the situation the best way we can." · 

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