Leopard, captured from Bengaluru school, escapes from zoo

Bengaluru: A hunt is on for a leopard that escaped on Monday from the zoo where it was caged after its capture on February 7 in a private school in the city, a wildlife official said.

“About 50 officials divided into six teams are scouring for the leopard in and around the Bannerghatta zoo and trying to trace where it escaped by following its pug marks,” Karnataka chief wildlife warden Ravi Ralph told IANS.

Expressing surprise over the eight-year-old feline’s ability to squeeze out of an iron cage with narrow grills and two barriers, Ralph said an inquiry was underway to ascertain how it managed to escape and remain not sighted since Sunday night when it was last seen in the enclosure.

Admitting that the injured leopard, which was undergoing treatment, did not have a radio collar, and closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras were not in place in the sprawling 275-acre zoo to keep track of its movement, Ralph said the animal could have sneaked into the adjacent national park, which is spread over 500 acres.

“Even in the cage, the feline was restless and appeared agitated. One of its eyes has glaucoma and it lost one of its canine teeth. We are hoping to trap it again soon within the park limits, as it would not have gone too far,” he said.

The captured leopard had injured five people at Vibgyor International School before it was tranquillized and trapped in a 14-hour operation by forest department personnel, wildlife experts and a veterinarian.

Though the zoo houses about 20 other leopards in different cages, it was the first time a leopard, weighing about 45kg, escaped from the rescue centre.

In a related development, chief minister Siddaramaiah said he would seek information from the forest department on the leopard’s escape, as it has caused fear among the people living in villages around the national park.

“I will seek details of the leopard’s escape. I will talk to the forest department officials and find out the reason,” he said.

Fortuitously, fears of another leopard prowling in and around a private school on January 9-10 were unfounded and its sighting turned out to be a hoax.

The authorities, however, declared holiday on January 11 in about 130 state-run and private schools in the area as a precautionary measure for the students’ safety.

“With forest fringes, lakes and other water bodies disappearing and increasing urbanization or encroachment of forests for various reasons, including wildlife tourism, wild animals are finding it difficult to hunt for prey and get water to sustain,” Ralph added.