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Govt wants elephants sterilised to curb their rising numbers

DH News Service, Bengaluru, Jan 7 2018, 1:25 IST
Wild elephant rescued by forest department personnel and elephants at Rajendrapur, near Ballu, in Sakleshpur taluk, in Hassan, on Saturday.

Wild elephant rescued by forest department personnel and elephants at Rajendrapur, near Ballu, in Sakleshpur taluk, in Hassan, on Saturday.

The state Forest Department has asked the Ministry of Environment and Forest's approval to perform immuno-contraceptive operation on female elephants to control the population of the pachyderms.

With 8,976 elephants, Karnataka tops the number of pachyderms in the country. Their increasing presence has been a cause for concern since authorities find it harder to manage them. More importantly, the number of man-elephant conflicts has also been on the rise.

IN August, the department wrote to MoEF asking its nod to sterilise camp elephants. It has also been pressing for the Centre's nod to sterilise wild elephants, citing the spiralling conflicts in Sakleshpur and other parts of Hassan.

In Sakleshpur alone, forest department staff has marked 45 elephants for sterilization. "The elephants have effectively made the place their residence," said an official. "No matter how many times you drive them into the forest, they come back. In just one year, six calves have been added."

With no response from the Centre, the department is piecing together a dossier to present to the MoEF in an effort to show the extent of the menace. "We're only asking permission to sterilize the females for three years," insisted an official.

He said the department would conduct immuno-contraception on 200 camp elephants and would only extend the programme to the wild pachyderms if the effort is fructifies.

The MoEF is anxious over the survival and long term effect the operation would have on the elephants. Ministry sources said a set of standard operating procedures should be evolved and special rules should be created to let Karnataka conduct the sterilisation programme.

"Most elephant behaviour and pattern is inherited, including migration," the ministry source pointed out. "Their natural cycles cannot be disturbed. Elephants have complex physiology and biology."

Forest Minister B Ramanath Rai said he received opinions opposing the sterilization programme, though the department is pressing for it. "It needs to be studied in detail," he said.

Despite backing from the Indian Institute of Science, the sterilization programme has been resolutely opposed by environmentalists. "There have been instances where improper tranquilization of leopards and tigers had resulted in their deaths," said Teja, an environmentalist.

"Recently, Karnataka Tourism department made elephant its logo for international market. We're proud of the elephants. The government should focus on strengthening elephant corridors and increase landscapes rather than trying to curb their population," Teja added.

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