The Forest department seems to be in a tearing hurry to fix a burgeoning and complex problem that it had failed to address in the last few years.
For, even before the High Court has pronounced its verdict with regard to the man-animal conflict, the Forest department has begun full fledged preparations to capture 27 “problematic” elephants in Alur in Hassan district, and the “rogue” tusker in Savandurga in Ramanagar district.
Also, to determine problematic elephants in Kodagu, the department has asked IISc to identify and GPS/radio collar those elephants prone to stay in human habitations for longer durations. Those causing harm to humans, will subsequently be captured. At a meeting held on September 13, the department has decided to carry out this operation soon after monsoon.
On September 10, G S Prabhu, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), wrote to Chief Conservator of Forests (CCFs) of Hassan, Kodagu, Bangalore, Chikmagalur and Mysore districts, directing them to come up with a plan of action to capture the said elephants, and also identify locations where camps can be set up to hold the captured elephants captive, as the existing camps are overcrowded.
The CCFs were also told that since the department lacked the expertise and technology to identify those elephants coming in conflict with humans in Kodagu, it had sought the assistance of Raman Sukumar, ecologist from the IISc, to radio collar the elephants and monitor the movements of the jumbos.
Based on the information, the department could be sure of capturing only those troublesome elephants.
Sukumar has also been granted permission to draw blood samples from elephants held captive by the department in various camps, for DNA mapping.
During the meeting in Bangalore, the method of capture was discussed and, it was decided that different methods had to be adopted in capturing the elephants.
“The logistics are different in Mysore, Kodagu and Ramanagar. First it was thought that the khedda method was ideal. But, later it was decided that the elephants have to be tranquilised and captured immediately. This work should have been taken up four years ago itself. We have waited too long, and the problem has intensified,” Prabhu said.
He said that there was a fear psychosis in Alur and Islur villages in Hassan district, where villagers, especially children, were frightened to step outside their homes even during the day. “The department was forced to pick them and drop them to school between sunrise and sunset,” he said.
Awaiting HC order
He said that preparatory works had been initiated as the High Court-appointed Task Force had itself recommended that the Alur elephants be captured.
“Yes, the Court has not pronounced its verdict. But, it has not stopped us from thinking. We will implement the action plan, only after the order. But, we are readying the designs and financial estimates, so that we can get going soon after the monsoon.”
Prabhu also said that the department had another arduous task of training mahouts.
“It’s a dying profession, and we are short of mahouts and kavadis. The department has planned to train Soliga tribal boys and Mohammedans from Hassan for this purpose,” he added.