'Elephant census about numbers, habitat data'
One of the elephants sighted on Tiger Road, Hullikatte range of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve, on Day One of the census. dh photo/Bosky Khanna
Elephant census is not just about numbers, but a mode to understand the habitat and issues pertaining to its fragmentation, said R K Srivastava, Inspector General of Forests and director, Project Elephant, New Delhi.
Speaking to DH on Day One of the census, he said the ministry of environment and forests was concerned over the deaths of elephants, especially because of the presence of railway tracks, though the Wildlife Institute of India has prepared a list of safe passages. This census will help prepare a detailed area map of the elephant habitat.
Srivastava and a team of officials from Project Elephant are touring places in south India as part of the all-India census. He said the jumbos were found in forest patches and outside forest patches, in coffee estates and tea estates. All these places are being mapped.
The officer said there was a need to improve the forest patches, especially by clearing weeds. Earlier, the Centre used to fund the clearing of weeds. But in the past two years, in states other than those in the Himalayan region, the central and state governments are sharing the cost of habitat improvement in the ratio of 60:40. The presence of weeds plays a role in the movement and fragmentation of elephants and their habitat, Srivastava said.
“The census will give a picture of the elephant dynamics, whether it is healthy or not. Around 15 years ago, the male to female ratio was 1:30, but in the past seven years, it has fairly improved. The census is an exercise to know the ratio. In the Bandipur-Mudumalai patch, the ratio is fairly better,” said noted elephant scientist R Sukumar, who is part of the visiting team.