Leopards know and own their power. Call it a cat thing. These large felines display their strength and powers of intimidation with great prowess. All they have to do is appear, and people will run screaming. Once the cat starts moving through a crowd, emitting threatening snarls … that is when panic sets in. This is what happened in Meerut City, India recently. A very large, fully grown male leopard appeared without notice in a busy outdoor market last Sunday afternoon, prowling through the stands, and panicked the entire Indian city. There were screams from people running in all directions, terrified and oblivious to everything but their own fear. It quickly became a stampede, in which two people were injured.
The large, hungry feline exited the market and strolled into an army hospital, as if unaware of its impact on the bedridden patients, and the cowering nurses. Everyone held their breath until the animal left by a side door.
Schools were shut down for the whole day on the following Monday, and residents were advised to stay indoors while a team of police and forestry officials, armed with tranquilizer darts, hunted for the leopard at large. Streets were vacated, and shops shuttered as the leopard panicked the entire Indian city. The team of men combed the city for the wild animal then a group of soldiers joined the search. When the leopard had eluded them for longer than was comfortable, wildlife officials also took to the streets, wearing helmets and carrying more tranquilizer rifles.
Adept at escape, the leopard found itself trapped in a warehouse for a brief, nerve-racking moment. Most leopards have the ability to jump as high as a rooftop, and this one leaped through a grated concrete barrier, breaking through it and escaped. Several tranquilizer arrows missed him as he flew to freedom in a blur of exotic spots. One policeman was injured when the animal leaped out of the cordoned area, never to be seen again.
With the encroachment of humanity into the natural habitat of these and all carnivores, they are increasingly being forced to search for food in populated areas. This take-over of the jungle by man’s need to develop will only assure the likelihood of more attacks by the wild inhabitants that are being increasingly evicted from their home. In some areas, cage traps have been set if a large cat is reported to be loose in a suburb or spotted on a city street. However, the shrewd animals seem to have a sixth sense about circumventing these pitfalls. In India, leopards are sacred and protected; wildlife officials take every precaution to ensure a safe return to their natural environment.
In mountain communities, such as Boulder, Colorado, it is a common occurrence to spot a deer crossing a street or to see a black bear hunting for food in a dry creek bed. They wander down from the mountain in search of food and for what they cannot find in their shrinking space.
Located approximately forty miles northeast of the capital of India, New Delhi, Meerut City is a busy, overcrowded metropolis in the Uttar Pradesh state. In another region of that state, a female tiger recently killed nine villagers who lived too close to a wildlife preserve. That tiger was never found and the search was abandoned.
How can one leopard panic an entire Indian city? It is the sheer size of these powerful predators that terrifies most people, who feel they have little, if any, defense against the strength and cunning instincts of the respected, but dangerous, Indian Leopard.
By Christine Schlichte