In a bizarre incident, a wild leopard gained access to a rehabilitation centre inside Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) on Sunday night and got locked inside a cage only to be spotted by zoo staffers the next morning.
The big cat received a royal treatment before it was sent back to the woods on Monday night.
Zoo officials said there was no problem of any sort for visitors as the rehabilitation centre is away from the zoo and safari area. The facility houses animals rescued from circus and conflict areas. BBP officials said the leopard had come from Bannerghatta National Park adjacent to the zoo. “We are wondering how the leopard gained entry into the rehabilitation centre as there is a 20ft metal fence. Our investigation revealed the leopard might have come to the centre around 7.30pm on Sunday (September 16) and entered one of the empty cages. One of our staffers routinely closed the cage gates, but didn’t notice the leopard inside,” said a senior official with BBP.
The presence of the leopard was noticed by zoo staffers and officials only the next morning after they heard it roaring. “We were all shocked to see a new leopard in the cage. It was a four-year-old healthy male leopard. There was risk in releasing it back to the forest during the day. So we fed the leopard meat and other items through the day to keep it calm. It relished our offerings. Later in the evening, the big cat was tranquillised by a veterinarian and released in the woods. Our staff returned only after it started gaining consciousness,” said a zoo staffer.
Dr Sanjay S Bijur, who recently took charge as the zoo’s executive director, also expressed surprise over the incident. The staff told him that it was the first such incident in the park. A senior staffer at the zoo said the big cat might have been attracted by the female leopards at the rescue centre. “Or it might have come in search of food,” he added.