Forests of Karnataka that were reduced to ashes in recent wild fires are beckoning people from all walks of life to come and take a headcount of its elephants.
It is time for the nationwide elephant census and the Karnataka Forest Department (KFD) has invited applications from wildlife enthusiasts and conservation buffs to help with the job. Be warned though that the census spread across five days in deep jungles under varying conditions is not going to be a cakewalk. For one, it is not open for all – interested applicants must also have fitness certificates. Plus, there is a total ban on mobiles, binoculars and other optical instruments, so adrenaline rush aside, the work is going to test endurance levels.
Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has embarked on the ‘All-India Synchronised Survey’ of elephants. Its 2017 census will be an elaborate exercise adopting several scientific measures for the first time.
Detailed guidelines and application for volunteers are available on KFD’s website www.aranya.gov.in. Applicants must download the form and submit it along with a medical fitness certificate from a registered medical practitioner. “As the census will require a lot of walking through thick jungles, we have restricted the age and also made fitness certificates mandatory for volunteers. We have taken this decision in the interest of the candidates,” Kishan Singh Sugara, chief wildlife warden, Karnataka, told Bangalore Mirror.
The census programme will get technical assistance from experts of Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and Asian Nature Conservation Foundation. Experts including professors Raman Sukumar and Surendra Varma will train resource persons, KFD officials and ground staff, who will then train volunteers.
“It will not be like the Tiger Census as it encompasses different techniques of sampling and identification methods. Training in such techniques is mandatory for all volunteers. Without training, no one can achieve the actual target of the census,” said C Jayaram, APCCF (Wildlife). The last date to submit the application is April 18.
A rigorous exercise
Giving insight into the nature of census and role of volunteers, Prof Varma said, “Volunteers have to take part in the programme on all the five days. Nobody is allowed to quit the census half-way through. We have had a training programme for resource persons on April 2 at Bannerghatta. Selected volunteers will be trained at four locations and suitably posted to their respective beats in various forest areas. On day 1, volunteers will create elephant distribution maps using GIS techniques in their respective blocks. On day 2, sampling will be done randomly for elephant sightings in select blocks. On day 3, division-wise land transact dung survey for all the blocks will be done. On the fourth day, actual sighting of elephants will be made at water holes, open areas, saltlicks and other regions where elephant herds are seen regularly.”
Prof Varma added that the survey would throw more light on the actual count of elephants as the elephants previously in Karnataka may have moved to Tamil Nadu or Kerala and counted in those states as well.