Leopard caught after 36 hours on prowl in India factory

A leopard lies sedated inside a cage after being captured in a search operation by a wildlife team at the Maruti Suzuki plant in the Indian city of Gurgaon. PHOTO: AFP
A screenshot of CCTV footage showing a leopard walking inside an Indian car factory in Manesar on Oct 5, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - A leopard on the loose inside India's largest car factory was caught and tranquilised on Friday (Oct 6) after sparking a frantic 36-hour search by 200 police and wildlife officials.

The big cat was spotted on Thursday on CCTV by guards at Maruti Suzuki's manufacturing plant in the town of Manesar, just about 39km from the capital New Delhi.

After workers were evacuated from the plant, which churns out nearly a million vehicles a year, police kicked off an hours-long operation to catch the animal, even using live goats and raw meat to lure it out of hiding.

But the leopard was unmoved and remained out of sight until it returned to the same location where it was first spotted.

"The wildlife team was successful in tranquilising the leopard late afternoon," said Ashok Bakshi, police deputy commissioner of Manesar.

"The animal has been removed from the factory and after medical examination will be released in the wild," he said. "No one was injured in the operation and area has been declared safe."

Deadly conflict between humans and animals has increased in recent years in India largely due to shrinking forest habitats and urban expansion.

India's environment ministry said in August that 1,144 people were killed between April 2014, and May 2017 by wild animals - an average of more than one a day.

There are an estimated 12,000-14,000 leopards in India, which are frequently killed when they stray into villages. Officials say one is killed on average every day.

In January, a leopard was beaten to death by a mob outside Gurgaon, a satellite city outside Delhi, after it attacked and injured eight people.

Last year, a leopard injured three children after wandering into a school in Bangalore in India's south. Local schools went into lockdown for days until the leopard was located and tranquilised.

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