No selfies with elephants, forest department warns volunteers (India)


Rohith B R, Times of India

Date Published

Although the forest department is thrilled with the overwhelming response it has received for the National Elephant Census – more than 500 people have volunteered to participate in the exercise – officials are equally wary of the problems that enthusiastic volunteers can cause with their smartphones. Eagerness to take a selfie with wild animals could lead to potentially threatening situations, wherein not just the life of the elephant, but even that of the volunteer could be in peril.

In a bid to prevent any untoward incidents during the census exercise, the forest department has imposed strict restrictions on the use of smart phones in the woods. Chief conservator of forests (project elephant) Dilip Kumar Das told TOI, “I appreciate the enthusiasm among citizens for the project. At the same time, ensuring safety of these volunteers and our forest staff is as important to us as the exercise itself. One must be extremely vigilant in the woods. A short moment of negligence can lead to a hazardous situation. Volunteers will not be allowed to use smartphones or cameras to take selfies or photographs whenever and wherever they want.”

While those who have been involved in such operations are aware of the conditions in the forests, there is always the danger of first-time volunteers getting too close to the animal, leading to a conflict-like situation.

The volunteers will be carrying out the census, along with about 100 foresters. The census operation entails a four-day stay in the forest. Dilip said that the volunteers and forest personnel would be scouring large parts of the woods, trying to track jumbos in the first two days. “They will not be allowed to carry their smartphones during this time. We’ll allow them to take photographs on the last day of the operation, when a waterhole count of the elephants will be conducted,” he added.

In fact, director of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve T Heeralal is contemplating banning volunteers from carrying smartphones inside the forest. “We want them to be serious about the exercise. So, we may keep their smartphones in the head office, and hand it over to them once they are back. Those really interested in the operation will understand what our intentions are,” he added.

Tracking jumbos in the thick woods

535: Number of volunteers finalised for Elephant Census 2017 in Karnataka

435: Volunteers in the 2012 elephant census

92: Total number of resource persons.

Maximum volunteers allotted to Bandipur Tiger Reserve

Bandipur: 98

Nagarahole National Park: 55

BRT Tiger Reserve: 40

Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary: 52

Bhadra WIldlife Sanctuary: 30