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23 Apr 2013

Leopard trouble in gardens

The leopard cubs that were rescued from Moraghat Tea Estate. Picture by Biplab Basak
TT, Alipurduar April 22: A garden worker was injured when a leopard attacked him in a tea estate near Falakata this morning, highlighting the increasing number of man-animal conflicts in the plantations of the Dooars.
In the past six months, 28 leopards, including cubs, have been rescued from Dooars tea gardens and three leopards have been killed by local people.
On Saturday, a leopard was trapped in Moraghat Tea Estate near Banarhat.
The animal was later released in Gorumara forest. The same day, two leopard cubs that were spotted in Satali Tea Estate, also in the Dooars, were taken to the South Khayerbari Rescue Centre. Foresters said the cubs were 10-day-old.
Forest officials said the animals are straying into the plantations frequently as they get easy pray in the gardens.
During the night, leopards often take away cattle kept in the labour lines of the estates.
According to foresters, it has been found that leopards like to litter in the tea garden drains and ditches.
“Female leopards prefer to litter in garden drains as those places are undisturbed,” said V.K. Sud, the chief conservator of forest, wildlife (north).
Foresters said at that time, if the animal finds anyone in the vicinity of the cubs, it attacks thinking the person is a threat to the young animals.
“We are worried as the leopard menace is on the rise throughout the Dooars. We have decided that we will conduct a leopard census this year to know the exact number of the animals in the Dooars. We always ask the garden management to install lights in the labour lines. We also ask workers to keep cattle in locked sheds so that leopards cannot attack them. We have to organise massive awareness programs throughout Dooars,” Sud added.
This morning, when workers were spraying pesticides in the Midnapore section of Kadambini Tea Estate near Falakata, a leopard attacked a labourer.
“Around 9.30am, a leopard attacked Benam Munda, 22. He fell to the ground and hit the animal with the spraying machine he was holding. The animal left him and went inside the bushes. Benam was taken to Falakata hospital. He has got five stitches in the head. He also has a shoulder injury,” said Dinesh Roka, assistant manager of the garden.
The estate, 32km from here, is adjacent to Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary.
“Labourers stopped working in the (Midnapore) section today. If the leopard is not caught, tomorrow again the workers will stay away from work as they are scared.”
In Moraghat Tea Estate, 90km from here, workers today spotted four leopard cubs in a drain. The garden management contacted Binnaguri squad. The foresters asked the labourers not to touch the cubs as leopards often abandon their young ones if they come in contact with human beings.
Foresters said they would wait for a few days to see if the mother takes away the cubs.
Animesh Bose, program co-ordinator of the Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation, an NGO, said: “We conduct awareness programs to prevent man-elephant conflict but leopard menace is also a serious problem here. Massive awareness generation programs are essential and secondly, as female leopards often visit tea garden drains in the afternoons and early mornings, people should not go near the drains at those times.”
Dooars has around 150 gardens and most are near forests.
“Prior to plucking, few people should roam the garden with drums to scare away wild animals that might have entered the gardens. It was a regular exercise in the Dooars gardens till a few years ago,” Bose said.

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