Rumours of leopard sightings in Bangalore led to closure of 129 schools on Thursday, much to the chagrin of the Forest Department, which condemned the "unfounded panic."
Days after a leopard incursion in a school on Sunday spread panic in the city, education authorities instructed scores of schools to cancel classes.
K Padmavathi, Deputy Director of Public Instruction (DDPI) for Bangalore South, told International Business Times India the decision to keep schools in the area closed was taken in consultation with the Forest Department and the police.
"129 schools, both private and government, in four clusters in Bangalore south will remain closed on Thursday as there are fears that leopards are in the area," the official told IBTimes India. "We will compensate for the classes by holding them on a holiday," she added.
However, Ravi Ralph, principal chief conservator of forest and wildlife ward in Karnataka, told IBTimes India the Forest Department had not asked for any such closure of schools and said there has been no confirmation of a leopard's presence in the residential area.
"This decision came as a surprise to us. It is an unprecedented and unfounded case where rumours have led to schools being closed, and such steps will lead to more panic among residents," the forest official said.
"The Forest Department is not discounting rumours and a large contingent has been carrying out search operations since Tuesday when the rumours of two leopard sightings broke out. There has been no confirmation so far," Ralph said.
Ralph said the Forest Department is writing to Bangalore's police commissioner about the step taken by education authorities to close schools.
For the Vibgyor school in Marathahalli, which saw an intrusion by a leopard on Sunday, this was the second day the school was shut following rumours of leopard sightings.
"We received instructions from the block education officer to keep the school closed today (Thursday)," Vibgyor principal Roshan D'souza told IBTimes India.
An eight-year-old male leopard had entered the school premises and injured at least three Forest Department employees before it was tranquilised following a 10-hour struggle. The Vibgyor school principal told IBTimes India the authorities were working to increase the height of the boundary wall to prevent similar incidents.
The leopard that was rescued from the Bangalore school is being kept at the Bannerghatta Rescue Centre.