"Mooing" ringtones used to catch leopards

AHMEDABAD, India Mon Jun 4, 2007 9:19am EDT

A leopard plays with a rubber tire inside its cage at a leopard rescue centre in Madharihut, India, May 3, 2007. Forest guards in western India are using cell phones with ringtones of cows mooing, goats bleating and roosters crowing to attract leopards that have wandered into human settlements, officials said on Monday. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

A leopard plays with a rubber tire inside its cage at a leopard rescue centre in Madharihut, India, May 3, 2007. Forest guards in western India are using cell phones with ringtones of cows mooing, goats bleating and roosters crowing to attract leopards that have wandered into human settlements, officials said on Monday.

Credit: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri

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AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - Forest guards in western India are using cell phones with ringtones of cows mooing, goats bleating and roosters crowing to attract leopards that have wandered into human settlements, officials said on Monday.

The wild cats in the state of Gujarat often roam into villages near forests in search of food, say officials, adding that this results in attacks on people.

But rather than use methods such as live bait like goats tied to trees to lure the leopards, which then fall into large pits dug by guards, officials say they have found a safer method to trap the cats.

"The moos of a cow, bleating of a goat from the phone has proved effective to trap leopards," said D. Vasani, a senior forest official in Gujarat. "This trick works."

Vasani said forest guards have downloaded the sounds of over a dozen animals as ringtones on their mobiles which they attach to speakers and fix behind a cage.

They then play the ringtone continuously for up to two hours until the curious leopard appears and moves into the cage looking for its easy meal.

Five leopards have so far been lured from villages since the new ringtone method was introduced a month ago. The cats have all been released back into forest areas.

Wildlife activists welcomed the new initiative saying that previous methods of trapping the cats using pits often resulted in the animals getting injured.

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