Leopard shuts down Indian Maruti Suzuki car factory for two days

Saptarshi Ray
This chilling photograph, a still from CCTV footage, shows the leopard ambling around the facility - AFP

Car factories may occasionally be used to wildcat strikes but one plant in India suffered from a different kind of wildcat problem when a wandering leopard caused a shutdown for nearly two days.

The Maruti Suzuki factory in Manesar, 20 miles south of Delhi, had to halt production after security guards saw the leopard enter the premises on Thursday morning. 

CCTV images showed the animal prowling around the facility in the early hours of the morning and staff were immediately evacuated as police and wildlife officials were called.

The 7am shift was then cancelled, leaving more than 1,000 arriving workers locked out as rangers with tranquillisers tried to corner the leopard and catch it. The 3pm day shift following was then also cancelled. 

Eventually, after an operation that meant production was halted for nearly a day and a half, the beast was caught by wildlife department rangers.

Once the dart was shot into the animal, Vinod Kumar, conservator of wildlife for south Haryana said: “It will take 20-30 minutes for the leopard to calm down. 

“The team members saw the leopard in CCTV footage and grabbed the opportunity to fire the tranquiliser at it.”

The wildlife team then removed it from the plant, he added.

“We will examine its condition before releasing it back into its natural habitat,” said R Anand, of the divisional forest department.

The drawn out operation appeared farcical at times, with wildlife officials using firecrackers to try and scare the animal out of its hiding place.

They then placed live goats in cages around the factory complex to try and entice it, drawing complaints from animal rights activists on Twitter.

The Manesar plant, which is 20km from Gurgaon, is one of the biggest manufacturing plants of the Indian automobile firm. 

The production plant, spread across 600 acres, manufactures around 5,000 petrol and diesel engines per day.

Production had been stalled for over 24 hours at the plant, estimated to have cost the company tens of thousands of pounds in man hours and lost revenue. 

Instances of leopards entering urban areas have increased in recent years in India as their natural habitats are destroyed.