Residents of the a colony in Kolhapur in Maharashtra were greeted by an unusual New Year guest early on Thursday - a leopard! The big cat was captured by wildlife officials but died soon after.
Unknown to the residents, many of whom were in deep slumber after the New Year's Eve celebrations, the leopard sneaked into one of the bungalows in Kolhapur from the nearby forests, officials said.
The big cat had entered Nationalist Congress Party MP Dhananjay Mahadik's bungalow before leaping out and entering the opposite bungalow, where it was seen at daybreak, quietly hiding under a sofa.
On sighting the animal, the bungalow residents ran out screaming for help, attracting everyone's attention in the entire residential complex.
Alarmed by the sudden commotion, the leopard lunged out of the bungalow into a small clearing in the compound and injured one person, Pramod Desai as the people ran helter-skelter to safety.
Later, some people summoned the local forest department officials who rushed to the colony and laid a trap for the strayed large cat, even as local police arrived and kept the huge crowds at bay.
Soon afterwards, a forest department team succeeded in trapping the leopard and took it away, to release it in the Chandoli National Park, around 60 km from Kolhapur. However, the animal died on the way.
The MP said he was "shocked" and demanded an autopsy be carried out.
"I am shocked to hear this. It is such a beautiful creature. Some people wanted me to shoot it with my licenced revolver, but I ordered it to be safely captured," Mahadik told IANS.
He said that to ensure no harm came to the animal, nets were procured and the leopard was trapped from one of the bungalows in the complex, but it did not sustain any injuries.
"Later, the forest officials may have used tranquilisers to calm and control the leopard. There should be a post-mortem and enquiry into the circumstances leading to its death," Mahadik said.