NEW DELHI (AP) — At least three children have been killed by leopards in a series of recent attacks in rural India, according to media reports and wildlife experts.
Two of the children were killed in a village in central India — possibly by the same leopard — with a 14-year-old boy killed in the country's north, near the edge of a wildlife conservation area. All three were killed Sunday, the reports said.
With thousands of leopards and more than 1.3 billion people, cat attacks occur dozens of times a year across India.
"By and large, the story of humans and leopards is a story of coexistence," said Pranav Chanchani, coordinator of the Tiger Conservation program at WWF-India. "There are many millions of people living close to the leopard population," he said, but only a tiny percentage ever face an attack.
India's poorest endure the most attacks, with the most vulnerable living in makeshift shelters without electricity on the edge of forests or sugar cane fields where leopards, and sometimes tigers, can easily find shelter. "That kind of combination can become a lethal mix," Chanchani said.
The Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh state, where the 14-year-old was killed Sunday, has seen at least a half-dozen leopard killings since the beginning of 2017, with at least one child reportedly dragged from his home. The nearby Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary provides shelter to leopards and tigers.
Wildlife officials try to trap or kill cats that kill humans.