IISc to develop radio collars for tracking elephants

The Forest department plans to fit stray elephants with indigenously developed radio-active collars in order to reduce the growing man-animal conflict.

In collaboration with the Department of Electronics at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), the Forest department will be using the radio-active collars in Nagarahole on an experimental basis.

“We are already experimenting with radio-active collars, bought from Africa, by tracking four elephants in Bannerghatta. The experiment will now be extended to Nagarahole with the help of IISc,” said G S Prabhu, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), Wildlife.

As per the current proposal, IISc will be building the indigenous Global Position System (GPS)-fitted collar and using it to collect relevant data from stray elephants. The Forest department will facilitate the study by fitting elephants with collars and sending them into the forest.

“The proposal is mutually beneficial. Once the collar is fitted on the stray elephant, it will be driven back into a herd inside the forest range. As soon as the herd moves, we will be able to track its position online. This will help in effective response in case the specific herd strays outside the forest reserves,” said Prabhu.

The department intends to replicate the system on a few stray elephants and send them back into the forests. “These elephants will then send distress signals to the entire herd and ensure that they do not venture out of the reserve areas, or go back to the locations outside the forests which are considered safe havens,” said the PCCF.

The Forest department is considering using the IISc-developed collar as it would be cost effective. “The collars imported from Africa cost Rs 2.5 lakh each. Further, if they develop defects, they will have to be shipped back for repairs. In comparison, the IISc collars would work out cheaper,” said Prabhu.

The department has also decided to use Google maps for identifying the locations where wild elephants have strayed.

Currently, as many as 164 elephants are located outside the Nagarahole forest range, in Kodagu alone. Sixty of these elephants are permanently housed in some coffee estates. In Hassan, 52 elephants have strayed out of the forest reserves, while in Savandurga forest range,17 elephants, including two young tuskers, are creating havoc.

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