Data paucity hits elephant conservation as funds dry up (Coimbatore, India)


Prabhakar T. The New Indian Express

Date Published

The Tamil Nadu Forest Department has not conducted an elephant census after 2011, though it should be done once in four years. Because of this, it does not have a suitable plan for forest conservation, as funds are allotted on the basis of old data.

In 2011, a synchronised elephant census was held under  ‘Project Elephant’ in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka to avoid ‘double counting’ as elephant are migratory animals. This census recorded 132 elephants in the Coimbatore Forest Division. But now, there are believed to be 400 elephants in the division, including the migratory population. Though the number has increased, the division still has the same number of staff and they have to struggle when human-elephant conflicts arise without proper equipment, including the torches crackers, etc.

“Each forest beat should have at least 10 anti-poaching watchers as the elephant population has increased. The animals often come out of the forest, but we do not have even torch lights to chase them back. Higher officials say they do not have the funds,” said an anti-poaching watcher on condition of anonymity.
“It is clear that the number of animals in the Coimbatore Forest Division has increased, but this has not been officially recorded. If the department conducts a census and provides the exact status of the forest, the Centre and State would allot more funds,” said K Mohanraj, an environmentalist.

“The department can involve actively in conservation only if it has enough funds, which it will get only if the exact status is reflected in the official papers,” he added. “Elephant census is likely to be conducted in 2017. Preparations for it are going on. “This time, with the help of scientists in the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, we will conduct the census more scientifically and by calculating the dung decay rate,” said Dr V K Melkani, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden.