DIBRUGARH, Sept 19 - Most often the straying and preying leopards in tea plantations and elsewhere end up becoming victims of lynching. The leopard (Panthera pardus), a major predator in Indian jungles, invariably finds itself at the receiving end whenever it strays into human habitation in search of food, especially livestock, poultry and dogs.
The narrative about the straying and preying leopards, however, differs when it comes to the situation in Rossell Tea owned Dikom tea estate, some 20 km from here. The worker community in the tea estate is educated on conservation and protection of wildlife and environment.
In a record of sorts, ever since the management of Dikom tea estate started awareness drives on conservation among its workers, 32 big cats have been caged unhurt from its tea bushes and rehabilitated in healthy conditions, Samar Jyoti Chaliha, the superintendent manager told The Assam Tribune. Whenever workers sight any leopard, they inform the management. The management then immediately reports to the forest department.
The garden management has few men, who are said to be experts in laying the trap with the bait (poultry birds) at self-identified locations. This morning also, another adult female leopard was caged in its Sessa division. On September 16 and 17, a cub and an adult leopard respectively were caged in its Wilton division, forest ranger Sanjib Bordoloi said.
�Tea bushes have become a natural habitat for the big cats. The leopards are also fond of dog meat and therefore, they prefer to live near human settlement areas,� he added.
The conservation drive among the workers was started in 2004 by Chaliha. �We educated the people of our garden through continuous conservation meetings where people were asked not to hurt animals and birds. People are largely aware now. We have successfully rescued 32 big cats unhurt so far and handed them over to the forest department,� he said.