Elephant census from May 17, focus on conflict areas

Elephant census from May 17, focus on conflict areas

Elephant census from May 17, focus on conflict areas

Karnataka is ready for another elephant census after five years. The latest headcount of pachyderms will start on May 17 after a two-day training of volunteers and ground staff beginning Monday. The focus of the census will be on frequent elephant habitats and why they are dwindling.

The census will be carried out wherever elephants are found and will not be limited to the five tiger reserves and 30 wildlife sanctuaries in the state. Places where man-elephant conflicts were reported will be covered, too.

These include Hassan, Shivamogga and the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, P Anur Reddy, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), said. To know the conflict areas better, the Forest Department is involving villagers. Noted elephant expert Ajai Desai said villagers would help provide details of crop raiding, searching and looking for fresh elephant tracks and the last time elephants passed by their area. This information will give a better idea of areas that need attention.

More than 550 volunteers and 98 resource persons have registered for the census, five times more than the last time when there were just 200 people. Forest officials attributed the higher registration to growing interest in wildlife. In 2012, when the last census was held, the number of volunteers was not organised and many last-minute entries were made. The official figure was lower than that on the ground.

No cameras or selfies

The Forest Department has instructed volunteers not to carry cameras or mobile phones during the census. “We want serious work. We have told the volunteers not to bring their cameras or phones. This order has to be followed across the state,” T Hiralal, Director, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, said.
The order also aims to prevent untoward incidents. “Since elephants move everywhere, there have been instances of people harming themselves while trying to take photographs. We don’t want people to get busy uploading photographs on social media instead of conducting the census. It’s no fun exercise,” he added.

According to Desai, the elephant population in Karnataka has doubled since 1987 but remains scattered. Elephants are well-protected in Nagarahole and Bandipur tiger reserves that adjoin the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mudumalai National Park.

But on the eastern side, towards Bannerghatta, they live in poor habitats and face threat. They face threat in North Karnataka, too, where they are scattered in the Yellapur region. He underscored the need to understand this disparity, its reasons and maintain stability.

Another elephant expert R Sukumar said elephant population was not a concern and emphasised the need for special attention to North Karnataka. He said the Dandeli belt was declared an elephant division three years ago but didn’t receive much attention afterwards unlike the Mysuru division where the elephant population was high and the region had become congested. He said attention should be paid to areas that witnessed incidents of conflict in the recent past like the Bannerghatta National Park and the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary. He raised concerns over elephants moving to Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh because of change in the geographical terrain.

The schedule

May 15: Planning and training at division level.
May 16:  Training and preparation of elephant distribution map
May 17: Sample block count (direct sighting)
May 18: Line transect (dung count)
May 19: Study of elephants in groups near waterholes, salt licks and open areas.

Four training sessions were held prior to the census on April 22, 25, 29 and May 2.

The Population

2002 census: 5,848
2007: 4,025
2012: 6,06

Elephant deaths

2012- 13:189 natural and 18 unnatural
2013- 14: 134 natural and 7 unnatural
2014- 15:77 natural and 18 unnatural
2015- 16: 59 natural and 15 unnatural
2016- 17: 56 natural and 10 unnatural

Did you know?

Karnataka has two elephant divisions — Mysuru and Dandeli. The Mysuru elephant division is the largest in South Asia and is considered the safest haven for tigers and elephants. This division is spread over 12,000 sq km and houses over 8,000 elephants, while the Dandeli division is spread over 5,000 sq km and is home to 100 elephants.

The Mysuru division covers Shivamogga, Bandipur, Nagarahole, Cauvery, MM Hills, Bannerghatta, BRT, Madikeri, Hassan, Kudremukh National Park, Balehonnur, Chikkamagaluru and Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, besides the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve and the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. The Dandeli division covers Uttara Kannada and Belagavi.