“Play loud music, wear helmets, walk a dog”: Forest officials’ bizarre anti-leopard regulations

In a bizarre set of regulations the Forest Department officials in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh asked farmers in Bijnor and adjoining districts to beat drums, wear helmets, neck pads and take a dog along while visiting fields to apparently save them from leopard attacks.

Farmers will be working in their fields in large numbers before the sugarcane harvest season begins in a fortnight making them vulnerable to leopard and tiger attacks.

Forest authorities have intensified their awareness programmes to minimize the man-animal conflict in the region which is in the vicinity of the Amangarh Tiger Reserve.

Forest teams are visiting villages and holding meetings with the farmers to make them aware of the safety measures.

“The sugarcane harvesting season is set to kick in. There are many big cats around the sugarcane fields as they provide perfect sanctuary to them. To mitigate the man-animal conflict, we are making the farmers aware that they should go to the fields wearing helmets and neck pads. They should make a noise by beating drums or playing loud music on mobile or radio while working in the fields,” Bijnor Divisional Forest officer M. Semmaran said.

“In addition, they should venture out in groups and also take dogs with them. If farmers spot any big cat in their respective areas, they should inform forest officers whose contact numbers are written on the posters being pasted on the walls in rural areas. We have formed a special task force to take quick action on the tip-off about big cat sightings.”

Leopard attacks have been increasingly common in the district and last year, a leopard had killed six persons.