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LUCKNOW: The ministry of environment and forest’s Project Elephant conducted a synchronised elephant census in all states in May, including at Dudhwa tiger reserve in UP, to determine elephant population and demographics at national level. The exercise has estimated at least 100 elephants in the reserve. The number is significant because UP never had resident elephants earlier.
The census used direct and indirect methods. Direct method was used in areas where elephants are visible easily due to high population and it was easier for field staff and census workers to click photographs and prepare a profile of the animals. There is usually one elephant every 5 sqkm to 8 sqkm.
The indirect count, meanwhile, was done in areas where density is low and elephant sightings are less. Instead of counting elephants, the census team on foot had counted piles of elephant dung.
“Samples of dung piles have been collected and are being analysed by scientists to determine number of individual elephants who might have dropped it and the period for which the pile had been lying at the spot,” said deputy director, Dudhwa tiger reserve, Mahaveer K.
The census technique used this time is called ‘dung-decay’ method that has been used at 35 locations across the country, including at Dudhwa. The technique has been formulised by elephant experts all over the country and is said to have 90% to 100% precision.
Number of dung piles multiplied with dung decay rate and divided by average defecation will give the number of elephants in the region. On an average, an elephant defecates 14 to 16 times a day. Given the standard, if the team has found 32 dung-piles at a spot, it would denote two elephants. Scientists from IISc, Bangalore, have used the dung-decay technique to assess the number of elephants in the country.
“The detailed data would come out once the analysis is over but the estimated number of elephants in Dudhwa is 100,” said the official. Though Dudhwa has no history of resident elephants, a herd of elephants, in all possibilities from Nepal has been staying in Banke Taal of Dudhwa for the last about two years. The herd has localised and is now even growing in number.