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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 June, 2004, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Leopards caught in fearful Bombay
Asian leopard
Leopard attacks are on the rise
The authorities in India's business capital Bombay (Mumbai) have captured three leopards after a recent upsurge in attacks on humans.

The big cats have killed 12 people this month alone - and three times that number since the start of 2003.

Residents have been gripped by fear following the attacks, which have taken place in and around a wildlife park.

Officials blame illegal settlements in the sanctuary and a lack of food for the leopards.

Most of the attacks have occurred in the city's Powai area, where the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is situated.

The sprawling urban lung covers 100 square kilometres and is a haven for wildlife - including an estimated 30 leopards.

'Not man-eaters'

Forest officials and environmentalists say nearly 200,000 illegal settlers inside the park are encroaching on the leopards' habitat. Another million residents live around the sanctuary.

Residents are up in arms about what they call official apathy, but a senior forest department official, Ashok Khot, told the BBC that people in the area needed to take greater care.

The BBC's Zubair Ahmed in Bombay says it is increasingly difficult to contain the city's burgeoning population.

Experts say the leopards are not man-eaters, but are attacking humans in the dark, mistaking them for prey.

Officials plan to release 500 pigs in the forest so that the big cats do not have to leave the sanctuary in search of food.

There are also plans to increase the height of the park fence to prevent the leopards from straying.

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