Elephant census to map new migration patterns (India)


P Oppili, Times of India

Date Published
The 7th all-India synchronised elephant census that will begin next month is expected to throw light on the migration patterns of the pachyderms as wildlife biologists have identified at least half a dozen new places across the country where the animals have started moving.

The census will cover 1.10 lakh sqkm, dividing the country into four regions – northeast, east central India, northern India and southern India.

Project Elephant Steering Committee member and Indian Institute of Science professor Raman Sukumar told TOI that the three-month population estimation will begin in the northeast region comprising Assam, east Bengal and the northeastern states.

In April, it will cover eastcentral India, comprising Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and south Bengal.

The northern region, comprising Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and the southern region, comprising Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, will be covered in May , he said.

A significant feature of the census is that it will adopt both direct and indirect sighting of animals. Indirect sightings are made through elephant dung.In the south, this method was introduced 15 years ago and in the rest of the country it will be introduced this year, he said.

The census will help determine accurate distribution of elephants. With this, its population structure can be studied. It will also help in understanding the demography of elephants in the wild, he said.

Whether elephant habitats undergo changes due to human intervention, the male-female ratio and other related information will be obtained through the census.

“This is a countrywide population estimation of elephants, which is done using a common approach. The census of jumbos is conducted once in five years. In the last cen sus conducted in 2012, the population in the country was close to 30,000.This included adult males, females, calves and sub-adult animals,” he said.

Four weeks before the census in the wild, a workshop for wildlife managers and foot soldiers of the forest department will be conducted by a Project Elephant team. Management of elephants in the wild is be coming more and more diffi cult, says Sukumar.

Union ministry of envi ronment, forests and cli mate change has allocated a meagre `27.50 crores in the current budget for Project Elephant. In the previous budget it was `25 crore. “This fund is not sufficient to address the big, complex challenges in wild elephant management.”

On the migration of elephants, Sukumar said at least half a dozen new jumbo sites have been identified by wildlife biologists.

“Jharkhand to south Bengal; Jharkhand to Chhattisgarh; Odisha to Chhattisgarh; Tamil Nadu to Andhra Pradesh and northern Karnataka to Maharashtra: These are some of the new areas to which they are moving. Even within Karnataka, elephants are entering newer areas,” he said.