Ringtones fool wayward leopards into capture
By Kate Ravilious
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC NEWS
When leopards approach, your cell
phone's ringtone could save your life, according to a new program in the western
Indian state of Gujarat.
Villagers there are now using “clucking,” “bleating” and “mooing” ringtones to
distract the big cats and lure them away from human settlements.
By attaching a mobile phone to a cage and playing one of the animal ringtones
continuously, local forest guards can lure the leopard into the trap without
“The moos of a cow or bleating of a goat from the phone has proved effective,”
said D. Vasani, a senior forest official.
Since the new ringtone method was introduced a month ago, guards have captured
five leopards and released them successfully back into forests.
In Gujarat, leopards frequently roam into human settlements searching for easy
meals. Villages near the forests are particularly vulnerable, with farmers often
losing livestock to a hungry leopard. Occasionally, the big cats attack people.
When a leopard is spotted near a village, guards are called in to capture the
animal and take it back into the forest. But this is no easy task, since the
roaming animal can weigh up to 176 pounds, and it brandishes sharp teeth and
Traditionally the forest guards have used live bait – such as a goat tied to a
tree – to lure the leopard into a large camouflaged hole. As well as being
unpleasant for the goat, this method can also result in injury to the leopard
when it crashes into the hole.
Gujarat isn't the only place where villagers have a problem with visiting
leopards. The most widespread of the big cats, leopards can be found in India,
Africa, China, Siberia and Korea. They are very adaptable and live in forests,
jungles, cold mountainous regions, open savannas and even urban areas.
But many subspecies of leopard, such as the Amur leopard in Russia, are
critically endangered because of reduction in habitat and competition for space
As part of efforts to preserve the animals, there is hope that India's new, more
humane capture technique could be applied worldwide.