A leopard has killed a man and seriously injured his wife after attacking them as they slept.
The attack occurred at around 3 a.m on Tuesday in Gujarat state, western India, The Indian Express reported.
Raju and Jasuben Chogle were asleep in an abandoned hospital near the village of Jambuda in Visavadar district when the leopard approached. The big cat mauled Raju Chogle, a 50-year-old laborer from the neighboring state of Maharashtra, on the neck.
Other laborers were nearby and called the emergency services. The couple were transported to a hospital in nearby Junagadh.
The man died from the severe injuries on his neck, according to the chief conservator of forests for the Junagadh district, Aradhana Sahu. Jasuben Chogle remains in a serious condition in hospital.
Leopards are skilled predators, but they do not usually attack humans out of the blue. In similar incidents in the past, the big cats have been desperate for food, appearing thin and starving. It is not yet clear what condition this leopard was in.
A forestry department officer told the Express: “The woman is also critical so we have not been able to get a first-hand account of what happened. However, we observed pugmarks of a leopard in Kodhiya Kendra, suggesting it was a leopard which attacked the laborers.”
Cages have been set up near the village in an attempt to catch the leopard. “Our staff has placed trap cages to rescue the leopard,” Sahu told the newspaper.
In rural areas of India, predators will often wander out of wildlife sanctuaries in search of food or water. Conflict between humans and wildlife has increased in recent years, as human settlements expand and encroach into animals’ habitats. Climate change has exacerbated this process, as drought and other severe weather conditions are making resources scarce.
In July, an 80-year-old woman was mauled to death by a leopard at her home in Gujarat’s Amreli district, about 40 miles from Jambuda.
The woman, who was blind, had been asleep at her home when the leopard attacked, forestry officials told The Tribune at the time. Villagers rushed to the scene after hearing the woman’s calls for help, but she succumbed to her injuries.
The July attack occurred on the outskirts of Jabal village in Savarkundla Taluka, close to the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is well known for its Asiatic lions, leopards and antelopes.
Newsweek has contacted the Gujarat forest department for updates on the attack in Jambuda.