By Jack Guy, CNN
A leopard has killed a Buddhist monk who was meditating in a protected forest reserve in India, according to local officials.
Rahul Walke Bodhi had gone to meditate in the reserve on the morning of December 11 when he was killed, said Santosh Chaudhuri, an official from the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve where the attack took place.
Bodhi was one of a number of monks visiting the area for a yearly prayer conference, AFP reported.
“He sat under a tree and was attacked by the leopard then,” Chaudhuri told CNN via telephone. “The monk walked in about 1 to 2 kilometers from the temple, into the forest to meditate. That is where he was attacked. He would go out regularly to meditate.”
The reserve is just over 500 miles from Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra state in western India. Chaudhuri told CNN that the area also is home to tigers and bears.
According to AFP, there have been four other fatal attacks in the reserve in recent weeks.
“These leopards live inside the forest,” said Chaudhuri. “This kind of incident happens one-odd times.”
A search for the leopard is underway and the animal will be moved out of the area when it is captured.
“The forest officials have put up cages and traps in that area,” said Chaudhuri. “The plan is to capture the leopard in the cage and transport it to another spot, to avoid retaliation from the villagers. The leopard will be tranquillized first.”
India is home to between 12,000 and 14,000 leopards, according to a 2016 study commissioned by the Wildlife Institute of India.
The big cats are threatened by loss of habitat, increasing conflict with humans and poaching for the illegal trade in body parts, according to WWF India.
The government estimates that 431 leopards were killed in 2017, according to AFP.
In 2016, three people were mauled when a leopard entered the grounds of a school in the city of Bangalore, leading officials on an all-day mission to subdue the animal.
Surveillance video showed the big cat chasing terrified men around the private school’s swimming pool, leaping on them and mauling them as they tried to escape.
A week later, the leopard escaped from its enclosure at Bangalore’s Bannerghatta zoo, where it had been receiving treatment.
Local experts said at the time that the animal could have wandered off into the national park that surrounds the zoo, which does not contain any human settlements.