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A leopard killed and ate two children in a span of 12 hours in Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh on Sunday, while a 14-year-old boy was killed Uttar Pradesh.

The incidents spread fear and panic among the villagers of the area.

On Sunday afternoon, a leopard killed a three-year-old girl in front of her house in Mohli Mata village and made off with the corpse. About six hours later, it struck again and killed a 10-year-old boy 3km away in Jholidhana village, said a Times of India report.

The victim, Harish Tekam, was sitting outside his house when he was attacked. The leopard was so swift that no one heard a thing. When his mother came outside a little later, she saw blood splatters on the walls of her little hut and the boy missing.

In Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich district, where the 14-year-old was killed Sunday, has seen at least a half-dozen leopard killings since the beginning of 2017, with at least one child reportedly dragged from his home. The nearby Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary provides shelter to leopards and tigers.

With thousands of leopards and more than 1.3 billion people, cat attacks occur dozens of times a year across India.

Attacks on children have become alarmingly frequent as the big cats are moving out of overcrowded, protected areas in search of new habitat or because of depleting prey base.

“By and large, the story of humans and leopards is a story of coexistence,” said Pranav Chanchani, coordinator of the Tiger Conservation program at WWF-India. “There are many millions of people living close to the leopard population,” he said, but only a tiny percentage ever face an attack.

India’s poorest endure the most attacks, with the most vulnerable living in makeshift shelters without electricity on the edge of forests or sugar cane fields where leopards, and sometimes tigers, can easily find shelter. “That kind of combination can become a lethal mix,” Chanchani said.

Wildlife officials try to trap or kill cats that kill humans. – Agencies

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