In Depth

Meditating Buddhist monk killed by leopard

Officials had warned against going too far into the Indian forest

An Indian monk has died after being attacked by a leopard while meditating under a tree in a protected forest for the big cats.

Rahul Walke, a 35-year-old Buddhist monk attached to a temple in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra state, “had walked some distance away from the facility so that he could meditate”, reports the BBC.

He had been at the spot for as long as a month, with fellow monks bringing him food, when he was killed.

“Four other fatal attacks have occurred in recent weeks” in the the reserve, just over 500 miles west of Mumbai, says the Daily Mail.

Police said that monks have ignored warnings from local officials not to venture too far into the forest.

A monk belonging to Walke’s temple told the BBC that he had witnessed the big-cat attack while taking food to the meditation spot on Wednesday morning.

The witness said he had run to get help but that by the time he returned with other monks, Walke was dead.

“His badly mauled body was found further into the forest, indicating the animal tried to drag it along,” Krisna Tiwari, a senior police officer in the region, told Paris-based news agency AFP.

Forest official G.P. Narawane said efforts were being made to capture the killer leopard. “We have set up two cages and a camera trap, and we will try to tranquilise the animal,” he said.

The temple also plans to install solar-powered electric fencing around the complex to ward off predators, The Times of India reports.

Official estimates suggest there are between 12,000 and 14,000 leopards in India. Urban expansion “has reduced their numbers as forest habitats shrink, bringing them into closer contact - and conflict - with humans”, says AFP.

According to Indian government figures, an estimated 431 leopards were killed in 2017. Most were slaughtered by poachers for their hides and body parts.

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