Updated: 02/25/2014 20:41 | By Agence France-Presse

India city on alert for prowling leopard

A northern Indian city stayed on alert on Tuesday after a wild leopard strayed into a hospital, a cinema and an apartment block, officials said.

India city on alert for prowling leopard

A leopard leaps across an under-construction structure near a furniture market in the Degumpur residential area as a bystander moves out of the way in Meerut on February 23, 2014

Authorities had closed schools, colleges and markets on Monday in Meerut, 60 kilometres (37 miles) northeast of the Indian capital, after the leopard was discovered prowling the city's streets.

Wildlife officials backed by police have fanned out across the city of 3.5 million people to try to tranquilise and catch the animal, although there were no sightings on Tuesday. 

"It is quite possible that the leopard has retreated to the jungle by now, but we can't take chances. We are on the alert," senior local forestry official S.K. Rastogi told AFP.

"Four teams spread across the city are on duty to spot the animal," Arvind Gupta, an official at the district magistrate's office, told AFP.

"Each team comprises three officers, one each from the district administration, police, and the forest department."

The cat was seen inside an empty ward of an army hospital on Sunday and later inside the entrance hall of a cinema and an apartment block, the additional district magistrate told AFP.

Video footage showed the animal growling from behind a glass window at the hospital as police and crowds gathered outside, and later running through a small park and leaping from a construction site. 

Conservationists say an increasing number of wild animals are appearing in towns and cities because of urban and industrial encroachment on their natural habitats.

Figures on the number of leopards in India varies wildly, with a 2011 census pegging the population at 1,150 but the national government in 2008 estimating more than 11,000.

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