Kolkata: In a bid to prevent leopard attacks particularly in the tea gardens of North Bengal, the state Forest department has kicked off the process of radio collaring the animals and then release them out in the wild.
"We have been conducting various awareness programmes in the tea gardens, informing the workers of some precautionary measures that can be taken to keep a check on leopard attacks. However, things have not worked out. Hence, we have decided to follow the most scientific method of radio collaring of leopards, which is being done by the Wildlife Institute of India. Four leopards have already been radio collared," said state Chief Wildlife Warden Ravikant Sinha.
The Forest department has set a target of radio collaring all the leopards in North Bengal by the middle of 2020. The effort will also help the department have an idea of leopard population.
"Leopards mostly attack humans in self defence. This process will help us track the animals' location and movement and hence we can communicate this movement in advance to the concerned authorities, so that they become cautious," a senior official of the department said.
At least 60-70 human injuries are reported every year in North Bengal because of leopard attacks. The animals' movement pattern will further help form an idea about their habitats, which can later be scanned for scat samples and analysis of these samples can reveal their food habits.
A senior official of the department informed that the drainage system of the tea gardens is very good and leopards prefer to stay in these drains of the tea gardens. Most of the attacks in tea gardens take place when tea plucking operation is carried out.
"We advise the people to follow a single straight line while plucking tea. But they do this in a scattered manner, thereby blocking the escape route of a leopard if it is staying in the drains during plucking. So, in a desperate attempt to flee, it attacks those who come in its escape route," the official added.
The tea garden labourers are also advised to burst some crackers while going for tea plucking. "But they hardly do so," the official said.
Earlier, the state has successfully radio-collared tigers and elephants and have gained crucial information about the movement of these animals.