Calendars with eye-catching illustrations, QR codes provide advice on coexisting with leopards in U’khand villages | Dehradun News

Dehradun: A leopard cannot change its spots, but humans can, to avoid fatal clashes with felines. This is the message circulating through brochures and calendars, with the aim of raising awareness among villagers in the hilly areas of Uttarakhand, where leopard attacks are rife.
The state forestry department, in collaboration with the Doon-based NGO Titli Trust, has developed the calendars and brochures, which contain cartoon-style illustrations and practical advice in the local language on measures to to minimize human-leopard conflicts. They also feature QR codes that can be scanned to watch short educational videos on how to coexist with big cats.
The films to which the QR codes lead, titled “Guldar ku Dagduya” (Friend of a Leopard) and “Guldar ki Pathshala” (A Leopard School) are played by children from Tehri Division, an area where children Leopard attacks are common. The measures suggested in these advisories include going to school in groups, regularly trimming bushes outside houses, keeping a light bulb on at night, avoiding open defecation, etc.
“Like our ancestors, the villagers must also learn to coexist with the leopards. We have to reluctantly eliminate the big cats after killing a human and the villagers demand that the animal be killed. It is not a healthy trend. Our program aims to change people’s approach to animals. The videos help to understand the behavior of a leopard, ”said Dhram Singh Meena, former Division Forestry Officer (DFO) of Narendra Nagar Division (Tehri Garhwal District), where the initiative was launched.
Uttarakhand has long struggled with the problem of leopard attacks in hill villages. The growing population and dwindling habitat of leopards has recently led to an increase in attacks on humans and livestock. According to the latest Wildlife Institute of India (WII) survey carried out in 2018, Uttarakhand is home to at least 800 leopards. Over the past 21 years, most of the deaths and injuries in human-wildlife conflict in the state have been caused by leopards. Each year, on average, the state records 24 deaths and 50 brutal injuries from leopard attacks.
In 2016, Titli Trust launched a project called “Living with Leopards” in the Tehri division of Uttarakhand. After the efforts resulted in a reduction in attacks, the project was continued by the Narendra Nagar Forest Department.
In a study conducted by the NGO to uncover the hot spots of leopard attacks, it was found that the districts of Tehri, Pauri, Rudraprayag and Almora were the most affected. “Prior to 2016, Tehri’s division had suffered an average of at least 13 leopard attacks each year,” said Sanjay Sondhi, founder of Titli Trust.
He added that after starting the program to educate villagers about the habits of a leopard and how to avoid attacks, the number of victims fell to two or three per year. “Since everyone now has smartphones, we thought about printing QR codes on leaflets and calendars. The idea is to change the villagers’ approach to leopards from ‘reactive’ to ‘proactive’, ”Sondhi said.

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