for National Geographic News
Part of the Digital Places Special News Series
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When leopards approach, your cell phone's ringtone could save your life, according to a new program in the western Indian state of Gujarat.
Villagers there are now using "clucking," "bleating," and "mooing" ring tones to distract the big cats and lure them away from human settlements.
By attaching a mobile phone to a cage and playing one of the animal ringtones continuously, local forest guards can lure the leopard into the trap without harm.
"The moos of a cow or bleating of a goat from the phone has proved effective," D. Vasani, a senior forest official, told the Reuters news service.
Since the new ringtone method was introduced a month ago, guards have captured five leopards and released them successfully back into forests.
Curiosity Captures the Cat
In Gujarat, leopards frequently roam into human settlements searching for easy meals.
Villages near the forests are particularly vulnerable, with farmers often losing livestock to a hungry leopard. Occasionally the big cats attack people.
(See a related photo of a leopard attack in India [January 17, 2007].)
When a leopard is spotted near a village, guards are called in to capture the animal and take it back into the forest.
But this is no easy task, since the roaming animal can weigh 66 to 176 pounds (30 to 80 kilograms) and brandishes sharp teeth and claws.
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