Leopard Breaks Into School Canteen After Fighting Over Territory With Rival

A leopard was rescued after breaking into a school canteen in the western Indian state of Maharashtra on Wednesday.

The big cat—an adult male thought to be 7 to 8 years old—entered through the kitchen window of the local government school in the village of Takali Dhokeshwar, Ahmednagar district, Indian nonprofit Wildlife SOS said in a press release.

Schools across the state of Maharashtra are currently shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic but maintenance staff were working at the site on Wednesday.

While they were cleaning the premises, school employees were shocked to discover the leopard in the canteen. After spotting the cat, they quickly shut the doors and windows of the canteen from the outside.

The maintenance staff immediately reported the incident to the Maharashtra Forest Department and Wildlife SOS—a nonprofit dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals in distress across India.

Officials from the Forest Department and a team from the nonprofit soon arrived at the scene, equipped with safety nets, a trap cage and protective gear in order to safely carry out the rescue of the big cat.

The rescue team first ensured that all entry and exit points were secured, before carefully assessing the situation. At this point, the big cat appeared to be very agitated, scrambling from one end of the canteen to the other in an attempt to escape.

Officials then cut a hole in the steel kitchen door of the canteen so they could insert a camera and torchlight, in order to give themselves a clear view of the big cat.

Once the team had confirmed the location of the big cat, a veterinary doctor from Wildlife SOS, Nikhil Bangar, immobilized the leopard by shooting it with a tranquillizer dart.

"The leopard has scratch marks and wounds on the head, ear, neck, chest and tail regions," Bangar said in the press release. "The injuries indicates that he must have gotten into a territorial fight with another male and had rushed to find shelter inside the school."

After the leopard had been immobilized, the team carried the big cat into a trap cage and took him to the Wildlife SOS Leopard Rescue Centre in the city of Junnar, in Maharashtra, where the animal received medical care.

Experts estimate that there are around 12,000 to 14,000 leopards in India, although the big cats face several threats including poaching and habitat loss/fragmentation, as well as various forms of human-leopard conflict. The entire operation took around four hours.

Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder and CEO of Wildlife SOS, said in a statement: "Big cats, especially the males often compete with each other for prey and territory base. Shrinking habitats and loss of natural prey base has led to more frequent struggles between animals over space and territory.

"Our team is keeping the leopard under close observation while he recuperates from this stressful experience. We are grateful to the Forest Department for making this rescue a success."

A leopard
The leopard that broke into a school canteen in the western Indian state of Maharashtra on Wednesday. Wildlife SOS