For a moment, there was authentic leopard print on display at an Indian mall.
The big cat skulked through the Korum Mall basement before opening hours early morning Wednesday (Feb. 20) in Thane, outside Mumbai, the Hindustan Times and other media reported.
Surveillance video showed the leopard pacing through the empty mall before shuffling through the parking lot about 5:30 a.m., the paper said.
Its movement toward a residential area triggered a capture mission, and forest officials trapped and tranquilized the animal in the basement of a nearby hotel.
Officials speculated that the leopard absconded from Sanjay Gandhi National Park, a serene nature preserve dotted with lakes and basalt cave complexes in the heart of Mumbai’s gargantuan sprawl. The mall is less than 2 miles from the eastern edge of the park, which notes a high density of leopards.
The eradication of natural habitats and urban expansion put humans and wild animals on a collision course, sometimes with deadly consequences for both, in India and across the world.
Days ago, a leopard sowed chaos in the northern Indian state of Punjab. The cat injured four people in an hours-long ordeal before it was subdued in a home.
Last year, Indian authorities launched a military-style operation to capture a tigress believed to have killed at least 13 people. It was cornered and killed in November, prompting joy from villagers but outcries from conservationists who said the mother was defending her cubs from increasing human encroachment.
Wild animal encounters in population centers are common in the United States. A man killed a mountain lion with his bare hands after it attacked him while he was trail running this month in Colorado, where officials said human population growth has meant more interactions with wild animals.
One mountain lion took refuge under a porch in Los Angeles, where development and traffic have hemmed in the cats to such a degree that a $60 million wildlife crossing bridge has been proposed. The Woolsey fire in November shrank mountain lion roaming grounds even further.
Then there was the moose that wandered into an Anchorage hospital, and the black bear affectionately named Pedals that wandered New Jersey neighborhoods on his hind legs after injuring his front paws. Pedals was a local sensation and viral star until a hunter killed him in 2016.
The mall-roaming leopard experienced a happier fate, though it is unclear what happens next for the big cat, or whether officials confirmed it was from Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
The park’s website boasts the chance to view any number of animals, including four-horned antelopes, hyenas and various deer.
“But,” the park noted, “nothing can really match the awe, fear and goose-pimply feeling when one is confronted by a large leopard.”