A leopard, which strayed into the Meerut cantonment area and injured at least two labourers at a construction site, was caught by a joint team of forest and wildlife experts on Thursday after a 45-hour rescue operation.
The animal was first spotted by a hospital staff near a military hospital in the cantonment area on Tuesday morning. The employee raised an alarm to alert other hospital staff and teachers of a special kids’ school inside the premises.
Frightened by the commotion, the leopard climbed a banyan tree and remained there until Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) officials tried to nab it by shooting three tranquiliser darts in the night. However, the animal managed to escape in the dark.
The leopard later resurfaced at a construction site in the cantonment’s Fazalpur area.
“We were taking it to the forest of Shivalik where it will be released after examination,” AK Awasthi, conservator of Meerut division, said admitting that the animal was in deep shock and requires a medical check up before its release.
A team of wildlife experts, forest officials, and veterinary doctors has been sent along with the animal to ensure its smooth release.
The experts of the WTI and forest department began their rescue operation on Thursday morning after cornering the animal at the construction site. The team covered it with a long net and also placed a cage there.
They then released smoke to bring it out and placed a bait inside the cage to attract the hungry leopard. When it came out in the afternoon, the team tranquilised it with a dart and took it away after it fell unconscious.
“We took it away from there immediately in order to rescue it from the crowd,” the conservator said.
“It was indeed a Herculean task to catch the animal without hurting it,” DFO Manish Mittal, who remained with his team during the long rescue operation, said.
The city had witnessed a similar incident two years ago when a leopard was spotted inside a wood store in Sadar area and then entered into the cantonment hospital. The entire city was kept on alert for over a week but the animal mysteriously disappeared after dodging teams of forest officials and wildlife experts.