, BANGALORE, Feb 15 – A male leopard which injured five people in southern India earlier this month has escaped from a zoo, sparking a frantic search for the big cat, wildlife officials said Monday.
The 45 kilogram (100 pound) feline squeezed out of the narrow bars of an iron cage at the Bannerghatta zoo in Bangalore city late Sunday, the chief wildlife warden of the state Ravi Ralph said.
“About 50 officials divided into six teams have been scouring for the leopard in and around the zoo and trying to trace where it has escaped by following its pug (paw) marks,” Ralph told AFP.
He added an inquiry was under way to find out how the leopard managed to escape from captivity.
The zoo does not have CCTV cameras and officials were worried the leopard might have sneaked into an adjacent national park which spread over 202 hectares (500 acres).
“Even in the cage, the feline was restless and appeared agitated. We are hoping to trap it again soon within the park limits, as it would not have gone too far,” Ralph said.
Earlier this month, the leopard hit the headlines after photos in Bangalore showed the animal prowling around a closed school and trying to maul forestry officials, a wildlife activist and others who came too close.
It was caught and caged after being trapped in a room with one tranquiliser shot through a wire-meshed ventilator in an operation that lasted nearly four hours.
Leopards number between 12,000 to 14,000 in India, according to a national survey released last year. They are increasingly venturing into populated areas as their habitats become depleted.
A leopard killed a five-year-old boy in the courtyard of his home in central India in 2014.
Video footage from Mumbai in 2013 showed a leopard creeping into an apartment block foyer and snatching a small dog.