Forest department plans to domesticate wild elephants in Kolhapur (India)


By Samrat Phadnis, Times of India

Date Published
KOLHAPUR: The territorial forest department of Kolhapur region has planned the domestication of wild elephants in Kolhapur and Sindhudurg districts. The plan will be implemented after domesticated elephants arrive from Nagarhole in Karnataka. 
There are reports of over 10 wild elephants in the southern forest areas of these two districts, adjoined to the border of Karnataka, from where these animals had entered Maharashtra in 2002-03. Maharashtra’s forests are not known for wild elephants, but the elephant herd that had entered the area has taken up permanent residence here over the period. 
The Maharashtra forest department had requested its Karnataka counterpart in December 2014 to provide domesticated elephants. Once these elephants, along with their trainers, arrive, efforts will be made to capture the wild animals. 
As per the present plan, the department is not going to capture all the wild elephants. It will concentrate on the animals roaming in the Dodamarg and Sawantwadi talukas of Sindhudurg. 
M K Rao, chief conservator of territorial forests, confirmed the development, but said that the Karnataka government is yet to approve providing the domesticated animals. 
“Plans are at an early stage and we are exploring all possibilities. We have written to the principal chief conservator of forests of Karnataka. We are awaiting a response. Once their elephants and trainers arrive, we can start implementing a plan of domestication,” Rao said. 
He said that the department is keen on resolving the issue and said that awareness programmes are continuously going on in regions where wild elephants seem to enter human habitats. The forest department is trying to convince people to change crop patterns and avoid human-elephant conflicts. 
Wildlife experts believe that capture and domestication of wild elephants is the only solution to Maharashtra’s problem. It will take a few months to domesticate the animal, according to experts. 
“Elephants are tranquilized and then captured. Once they are revived, they find themselves in captivity. Domesticated elephants are slowly introduced to these animals; after a period, wild elephants start responding to the domesticated animals. Once trainers are sure of a wild elephant being domesticated, they remove the animal from enclosures,” said Jayant Kulkarni, founder of Envirosearch, a Pune-based research institute working on wildlife conservation. 
Kulkarni is a member of the expert committee appointed by the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEF) to study the problem of human-elephant conflict in Kolhapur district. The committee, headed by the chief wildlife warden of Maharashtra, consists of the field director of the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve, the honorary wildlife warden of Kolhapur, the chief conservator of forests (territorial division) and elephant expert members R Sukumar and Ajay Desai as members. 
The forest department has estimated that at least 10 elephants exist in Ajara and Chandgad talukas of Kolhapur district and Sawantwadi and Dodamarg talukas of the Sindhudurg district. Of these, at least five elephants have formed a herd and are residing in forests near the Tilari dam area. This area has thick forest cover and plenty of water. The department will avoid capturing these animals, a senior officer working on the project said.