A hapless leopard found out what life is all about in the concrete jungle when it strayed into Uttar Pradesh's Meerut town on Sunday only to be taunted, teased and harassed by hundreds of people who gathered to watch the big cat from close quarters.
One person was injured when he ventured too close to the irritated leopard.
Luckily, the big cat found refuge in an empty room at a hospital in the army cantonment. Wisdom prevailed and the leopard was locked up inside the room and forest department made preparations for tranquilising the big cat, latest by Monday, for its release back in the jungles.
Hundreds of leopards are killed across the country every year by people when the big cats stray out of their dwindling forest homes in search of food.
The news of the leopard's appearance in the town in the afternoon hours led to hundreds of people gathering in front a shop in the Sadar area.
Curious people – both youngsters and the not-so-young -- jostled to have a glimpse of the big cat, leading to a virtual stampede-like situation.
"It is very difficult to control such a crowd," admitted Meerut's senior superintendent of police Omkar Singh, who arrived at the spot almost immediately.
However, police had a hard time in controlling the people and one of them moved too close to the leopard only to face a lethal swipe of the animal's sharp claws. He was taken to a local hospital with scratches.
The big cat then jumped into the adjacent cantonment hospital, creating panic among patients, caretakers and staff. However, the leopard walked into a room in search of a safe place where he was locked from the outside.
Forest and police officials are camping in the hospital to monitor the situation and a team of experts has been called to tranquilise and capture the leopard.
"We have called a tranquilising team from Amangarh to capture the leopard safely," said SK Rastogi, chief conservator of forest, west zone.
Meanwhile, thousands of people gathered around the hospital to have a glimpse of the animal, leading to massive traffic jam on the Delhi road for hours.
According to forest officials, the leopard might have strayed into the city from the neighbouring jungles.
Sighting of leopards have been reported from different locations in past few months and one was trapped 10 days ago in the Kithore area.
All photos by Chahat (HT photo)