Leopard on the loose in Indian car factory

This photo of a screen displaying CCTV footage shows a leopard walking inside an Indian car factory in Manesar on Oct 5, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Wildlife officials and police were on the hunt Thursday (Oct 5) for a leopard on the loose inside a factory run by India's largest car manufacturer, officials said.

Nearly 100 police and forest officials carrying tranquilliser guns were pursuing the big cat inside the factory at Manesar, which went into lockdown after it was spotted lurking around by security guards early Thursday.

"Many teams of police and forest guards are searching for the leopard. We have cordoned off the entire complex," Ashok Bakshi, a deputy commissioner of police in Manesar, roughly 50 kilometres from New Delhi, told AFP.

Workers were evacuated from the Maruti Suzuki plant, the largest in India churning out nearly a million vehicles a year.

A spokesman for Maruti Suzuki said "they are in the process of collecting more details", but did not elaborate further.

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 tranquillised.

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