At a time when concerns are being raised about the man-elephant conflict in West Bengal, the State Forest Department is all set to undertake an elephant census across the State to estimate the number of pachyderms in the State.
The massive exercise of counting the number of elephants is scheduled between December 17 and 19. It will be held in both forested areas of south and north Bengal.
Vipin Kumar Sood, Chief Conservator of Forest, (wildlife) North said, “We use direct sightings to estimate elephant population,” he said.
At the same time an elephant population estimation exercise will also be carried out in south Bengal, Kalyan Das, Conservator of Forest Wildlife (Head Quarters) said.
The last census carried out in 2010 has given a figure of 529 elephants in north Bengal and 122 elephants in south Bengal (total 751 elephants in west Bengal) .
While there has been an increase in the elephant population when compared to the previous census (from 421 in 2005 to 751 in 2010), foresters expect that the number will increase in the census scheduled in December.
The rise in elephant population in West Bengal is despite unusual deaths of elephants. At least 50 elephants have died after being run over by speeding trains in north Bengal in the past 10 years. The causalities are not only restricted to pachyderms, senior forest officials say that every year human –elephant conflicts results in nearly 70 human deaths in West Bengal.
Well-known elephant expert R. Sukumar of the Centre for Ecological Studies, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore said that when compared to other States with high elephant population the human-elephant conflict in West Bengal is relatively higher.
Mr Sukumar said in Karnataka, which has a population of 6,000 elephants (6179 as per 2010 census), the number of human deaths remain same as West Bengal with about 70 deaths. “For every 100 elephants there is one death reported in Karnataka while in West Bengal it is same for every ten elephants,” he said.
Experts point out that while north Bengal has relatively bigger stretches of forests south Bengal has small stretches of forest surrounded by agricultural fields making it more susceptible to man-elephant conflict.
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