National elephant census to kickstart on Wednesday (Kerala, India)


Dhinesh Kallungal, Express News Service

Date Published

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KOCHI: This could be one jumbo exercise. Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, one of the largest habitat for elephants in the country, will join hands for a three-day synchronized tusker census from Wednesday. Since elephants are migratory animals, the combined effort is significant to avoid duplication.  

During the last elephant census held in 2012, the number of wild elephants in Kerala stood at 6,177 and there could be a marginal increase in their population despite increasing cases of man-animal conflicts in the state.

Pramod G Krishnan,Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife, Palakkad), said the survey was not limited to the numbers of elephants but it would encompass the size, distribution, structure and density of the elephant population – vital in stabilizing a healthy herd. The Periyar Tiger Conservation Foundation will coordinate the census.

The forest has divided into 641 select blocks, including 21 in Wayanad. A three-member team, including a watcher and two beat forest officers, will be engaged in each block which will have a 7 km range. The census involves block, dung and waterhole count methods and officers will number the direct sighting of elephants on the first day.

A census based on dung decay method along the transit route of elephants will be conducted on the second day while the final day will feature counting based on their arrival at main water-bodies.   

The elephant census will cover a forest area of around 9,670 sq km out of the total 11,119.3 sq km in the state. The venture will also take into consideration the rising cases of human-elephant conflicts in the state. There have been 48 human deaths, 84 human injuries and 5,938 crop damage cases since 1985 due to human-wildlife conflicts in Wayanad alone.

The Forest Department is carrying out a project to relocate 800 tribal families out of forest as a measure to mitigate the rising man-animal conflict. The statistics showed 94 people were killed by wild elephants in the state in the last seven years and the government has paid Rs 1.12 crore as ex-gratia to the families of the victims. The state has paid Rs 15.07 crore as compensation for crop damage caused by elephants.

While 20 elephants were killed by poachers during this period but the exact number of elephants killed by people in retaliation would be much higher. 

Tusker tales

The department will employ around 2,000 field staff for census 
The forest is divided into 641 blocks and a three-member team will be engaged in each block. 

Last census has put the number of wild tusker in Kerala at 6,177.
The census involves block, dung and waterhole count methods.