700 forest staffers, volunteers to go jumbo-spotting in N Bengal today (India)


Pinak Priya Bhattacharya & Krishnendu Mukherjee, Times of India

Date Published

The elephant population estimation exercise in north Bengal will kick-off on Monday. Training workshops for the three-day exercise were held at various parts of north Bengal last week.

Talking to TOI, conservator of forest (wildlife) Subhankar Sengupta said the exercise is part of ‘All-India Synchronised Elephant Population Estimation’ and all elephant states in a given region will conduct the field work on the same dates. “North Bengal has been kept in the north-east India cluster with Assam, Arunachal and Nagaland. South Bengal has been kept in the eastern India cluster with Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand and Bihar where the exercise will be conducted in April,” he said, adding that in north Bengal, the exercise will cover the entire region from Sankosh river in east to Mechi river in west.

According to him, 165 teams with more than 700 forest staff and volunteers will participate in the field exercise. The last such exercise conducted by the state in 2014 had pegged the elephant population in north Bengal at more than 550. The one by the Centre is done once in every five years. “In north Bengal alone, there are over 550 elephants. The synchronised approach will help eliminate duplication in counting,” said Nisha Goswami, divisional forest officer, Gorumara wildlife division.

PhD student with Centre for Wildlife Studies, Aritra Kshettry, who will take part in the exercise, said block counts, dung density transects and elephant population structure methods will be used this year. “In block counts, we will select areas of 4-5 sq km in the forests and note down elephant numbers based on direct sightings. In dung density transect, we will estimate the density of dung piles using line transect method and then use the dung density to estimate elephant densities. This year, we will also use citizen science and photographic records from each elephant range state to find out the proportion of juvenile, adult and old elephants to find out the population trends,” he explained.

R K Srivastava, director of country’s Project Elephant, said they are using a refined method this time to avoid double counting. “The results are expected to be out in June,” he added.

All forests will remain closed to tourists during the exercise.