All of a sudden, one is witnessing a spike in attacks on human beings by big cats, across India. One high profile case was that of Tigress Avni, whose orphaned cubs triggered a nation-wide outpouring of grief and outrage. Conflict between man and beast has become increasingly common, with animals sandwiched between the shrinking wilderness and a burgeoning human population. Avni was shot in the forests of Yavatmal, in the Indian state of Maharashtra, having been accused of killing 13 people. Another tragic piece of news has come from the same state, this time from the forests of Ramdegi, in eastern Maharashtra’s Chandrapur District. A Buddhist monk by the name of Rahul Walke Bodhi was meditating under a tree when he was attacked by a leopard which then tried to drag him away from the spot. The forests of Ramdegi are part of a tiger reserve with a healthy population of big cats. The attack took place on December 11, between 9:30 and 10:00 am in the morning, an unusual time for leopards (which normally avoid human beings during the daytime) to be out and about in the vicinity of men. The monk died on account of the terrible mauling he received from the big cat. He had been meditating in the forest for nearly a month. It seems that another man (a shopkeeper) had also been attacked and killed by a leopard in the reserve Given below is a report published by NDTV, an English-language news channel (‘Meditating Buddhist Monk, 35, Killed By Leopard In Maharashtra Forest’ dated December 14, 2018) about the unfortunate encounter:

A Buddhist monk has been killed by a leopard while meditating in a protected forest for the big cats, the fifth such attack in the area this month, police said on Thursday. Rahul Walke Bodhi was seated beneath a tree in Ramdegi forest in western India for morning prayers on Tuesday when the leopard pounced. The 35-year-old monk was fatally injured, police in Maharashtra state said. Two other devotees meditating with him at the time escaped unscathed to alert police, who started a search for his body. “His badly mauled body was found further into the forest, indicating the animal tried to drag it along,” Krisna Tiwari, a senior police officer in the region, told AFP. The forest, roughly 825 kilometres (510 miles) west from the state capital Mumbai, falls within a protected reserve for big cats where four other fatal attacks have occurred in recent weeks. The monks, in the area for an annual prayer conference, had ignored warnings from local officials about venturing too far into the forest, police said. The attack followed a separate fatal incident on Monday, when shopkeeper Sandeep Arjun was killed outside his stall on the outskirts of the forest. It was unclear whether the same leopard was responsible for both attacks. Three more deaths attributed to leopards and tigers have been reported around the reserve in the past month, officials say. Official estimates suggest there are between 12,000 and 14,000 leopards in India. Urban expansion has reduced their numbers as forest habitats shrink, bringing them into closer contact — and conflict — with humans. An estimated 431 leopards were killed in 2017, according to government figures. Most were killed by poachers for their hides and body parts. There are no figures on the number of humans killed by leopards, but experts say there are hundreds of deaths each year.

Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons, is based on a painting – ‘Indian Leopards’ (oil on canvas) by John Macallan Swan (1846 – 1910), an English painter and sculptor. His representations of wild animals were unrivaled. Swan was appointed to the Royal Academy of Arts in London. The painting itself is preserved in the Cartwright Hall of Bradford, UK and the image was uploaded by Art UK.