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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 December 2006, 13:22 GMT
Mumbai leopards back in the wild
By Zubair Ahmed
BBC News, Mumbai

Asian leopard
'Relationship between leopards and men in Mumbai manageable'
Indian forest officials say they are releasing 17 leopards, caged after attacks on humans, back to their sanctuary in Maharashtra state.

They say the leopards are being released in batches of two into the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in the state capital Mumbai (Bombay).

The big cats killed 22 people in the park over two years ago.

Officials are optimistic that the relationship between man and the beasts can now be managed.

Environmentalists say the caging of the leopards is cruel.

Leopards are on the list of endangered species in India and their dwindling population is a cause for concern for environmental activists.

The Sanjay Gandhi National Park sits miraculously in the centre of the sprawling conurbation of Mumbai.

Nature's rules

But the city's burgeoning population is increasingly pushing deep into the forest, leading to a battle for space between man and the beast.

In the last few years, the big cats have often emerged from their natural habitat and into the urban jungle, killing 22 people, many of them children.

In all, 20 leopards were caged after those deaths.

A forest official said that more deer are needed to feed the leopards so as to prevent them from attacking humans.

He said the big cats were being released into the wild because that is where they belong.

Environmental activists want building activity around the forest area restricted.

They say the story underlines man's inability to play by nature's rules.

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