A half-eaten body of a 4-year child, who had been missing for seven days, was found in a forest area in northern India on Tuesday.

Authorities of the wildlife department and local police had launched a search for the boy on March 31 after his family filed a missing complaint. The remains of the child were recovered from the bushes of a forest area of Qazigund, a town in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. People who live nearby suspect the child was mauled to death by a leopard.

The victim was identified as Nazakat Khan, son of Mohammad Khan, Free Press Kashmir reported. Reshi Irshad, ​the Station House Officer (SHO) Qazigund, confirmed to local media the child's body was removed from the forest area.

Earlier, Kashmir News Observer (KNO) reported the boy disappeared on the night of March 31. At the time, the police suspected an animal attack as traces of blood were found leading to the forest.

“Nothing can be said at this time whether he has been taken away by wild animal or anyone else,” wildlife officer Imtiyaz Naik told KNO after the disappearance of the child.

On Sunday, a leopard was captured alive by the officials of the wildlife department in Budgam, nearly 50 miles from Qazigund. The animal was caught after it was seen in a residential area. Authorities also said a male leopard and its cubs were roaming in the area.

In March, TRTWorld reported leopard attacks were on the rise in Kashmir due to deforestation and disruption of wildlife habitats. The report said from the year 2014 to 2018, 49 people were killed and 828 injured in the Kashmir region due to human and wildlife conflicts.

“People gather around these animals which frighten them and their natural reflex of self defense, which is to attack, is activated. If left on their own they won’t hurt anyone unnecessarily,” Aakib Hussain, a wildlife researcher, said. “We have encroached on their habitat and now it’s time to pay back for our wrongdoings."

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