UK & World News
Leopard On The Loose: Six Hurt In India
A leopard which has injured six people and triggered a city-wide panic has managed to avoid capture despite being shot with a tranquiliser dart.
Schools and colleges were closed in Meerut, 37 miles northeast of the Indian capital New Delhi, after the animal was found prowling the city's streets, where it strayed into a hospital, cinema, and an apartment block.
A senior city official said: "We have launched a massive hunt for the beast."
The big cat was found inside an empty ward of an army hospital before wildlife officers were called and managed to hit it with a tranquiliser dart.
"But despite that he managed to break (out through) the iron grilles and escaped," the official said.
"He then sneaked into the premises of a cinema hall before entering an apartment block. After that we lost track of the cat."
Authorities have urged the closure of markets in the city of more than three million people until the animal is captured.
Police, soldiers and wildlife officials have been trying to hunt it down, but their efforts have been hampered by large crowds eager to catch a glimpse of the leopard.
Dramatic pictures showed the animal pushing its way through a lattice wall at the hospital as a police officer in a riot helmet attempted to hit it with a long baton.
The leopard was also pictured leaping off a building site as people scrambled out of the way.
Last week another leopard killed a five-year-old boy in the central state of Chhattisgarh.
It was the latest in a string of incidents which have raised concerns about the dwindling habitats for big cats, which is forcing them into populated areas.
Video footage from Mumbai last year showed a leopard creeping into an apartment block foyer and snatching a small dog.
A tiger on the prowl in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh since last December is believed to have killed around 10 people, and wildlife officials are still trying to hunt it down.
Conservation group WWF has called for better management of forests and other habitats for India's leopard population, which numbered just 1,150 in a 2011 census.
"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," said Deepankar Ghosh of WWF-India,
"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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