A leopard on the loose has sparked a scare and shut all schools and colleges today in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, less than two hours from Delhi.
The animal, which is believed to have strayed from the forest on the edge of Meerut’s rural area, has attacked several people and is being hunted since Monday. The army is also helping in efforts to track the leopard down after it escaped from a hospital where it was locked in for hours.
The leopard was first spotted at a market complex in Meerut’s cantonment area on Sunday morning. When it attacked two men, people started running in panic and the police even had to use batons to try and control the crowd.
Six people including a photographer were hurt in the commotion. When the police reportedly fired a shot in the air, the leopard jumped on rooftops and walls till it entered a hospital.
The animal walked into a ward where five patients were admitted. The hospital staff managed to take the patients out and lock the leopard in.
Wildlife officers reportedly managed to fire a tranquilizer dart into the animal but after a long vigil, it managed to escape through a window and vanished.
The hospital is not far from a reserved forest area, but all of Sunday, there was no expert available to catch the animal, said the police. The leopard also strayed into a cinema hall and then an apartment block. Teams of experts are still looking for it.
People have been asked to stay in and most shops in the Cantonment area are also closed in the city of 3.5 million.
Meerut administration officials say wild cats have been known to stray into settlements from the thick forests nearby.