Leopard attacks lead to calls for proper shelters for labourers
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Forestry officials in India have asked sugar mill owners to build concrete huts to protect their workers from man-eating leopards.
The move follows a series of leopard attacks in Gujarat, Western India, in which five workers have been killed.
Officials said the leopards had moved into sugar cane fields during the harvest season because their natural jungle habitats had been destroyed by building developments. To satisfy their need for around five pounds of meat per day they had moved into the sugar fields and started attacking farm labourers.
The five labourers killed by leopards had been attacked in the last six weeks. More than 12 other workers had suffered serious injuries.
Forest conservation official R.V Asari told The Pioneer newspaper that the herbivorous animals leopards normally prey on had been scattered and reduced through human development. They had switched to eating goats, rabbits, peacocks and occasionally people.
Unlike the Indian tiger, whose population is in serious decline and faces a fight for survival, the leopard is regarded as a more adaptable predator and its population is increasing and spreading out beyond its normal habitat.
Seasonal farm labourers, who move from neighbouring Maharashtra to harvest the sugar cane crop, are vulnerable to attack because they sleep in open, temporary shelters close to the fields where leopards hunt at night.
Officials have now asked mill owners to improve their accommodation and working conditions to give better protection from attack. They have been asked to build new concrete huts, lighting and night guards to keep watch for leopards.