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Leopard shot dead after attacking policeman in Iranian city

An adult male Persian leopard pictured at Lisbon Zoo on November 15, 2019
— Tehran (AFP)

A leopard was shot dead in the northern Iranian city of Ghaemshahr on Sunday after attacking and injuring a policeman, state media reported.

The endangered big cat "was killed by two bullets to save the life of the police officer," said Moslem Ahangari, head of the Mazandaran province Environmental Protection Unit, according to the IRNA news agency.

The health of the police officer was reported to be "stable," it added.

Earlier, the province's environment protection spokesman, Kamyar Valipur, had reported that the leopard had "attacked and injured a policeman before fleeing towards a garden", IRNA reported.

The leopard was then taken to a wildlife centre but died of the gunshot wounds.

A video posted on social media shows the leopard crouched on the city street outside a bank. Panicked, the animal jumps a few seconds later, and flees.

The inhabitants are seen terrified, screaming and running in all directions, according to the images.

According to the IRNA agency, the province's environment department is investigating whether the animal entered the city from forested areas or was being illegally kept in a local household.

Persian leopards are listed as an endangered species on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

They are a panther sub-species native to Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and the Caucasus. Fewer than 1,000 are believed to exist in the wild, with another 200 in captivity.

Many wild animals, including wolves and foxes, have been seen in urban areas in Iran in recent weeks, according to Hamshahri, the daily newspaper of Tehran's municipality.

The newspaper notably reported the sighting of a bear in the southern town of Marvdasht and a wolf attack on two elderly women in Khalkhal, northwest Iran.