It’s a problem of plenty for the Karnataka Forest Department. With the state’s large elephant population becoming difficult to manage, the department is considering sterilising some females pachyderms, albeit on a temporary basis.
The issue was one of the focal points at a meeting held by the department in June. The meeting was called to prepare for the upcoming elephant census. “The department is contemplating sterilising some “attractive” captive females at the Dubare elephant camp in Kodagu on a temporary basis. If needed, elephants at the Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) will also be sterilised,” a forest official told Deccan Herald.
Both the BBP and the Dubare elephant camp have healthy breeding populations. The BBP has 19 female pachyderms and Dubare 29. At any time of the year, at least one female is pregnant while an offspring is born every two to three years. Most females are attracted to wandering and rogue wild males.
“If some females are sterilised on a temporary basis, it could help in controlling the population and reducing the man-elephant conflict,” the officer noted.
The department proposes to use the Immunocontraception mechanism where females are put on medication for a short duration.
Only captive animals can be put on medication as the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, prohibits such an experiment on animals in the wild.
Surendra Verma, senior scientist, Asian Nature Conservation Foundation, IISc, said elephants were being sterilised in Africa as well as in Northeast India. The challenge, he said, is identifying the right females, understanding their oestrous cycles and regular monitoring.
BBP elephants are quite in demand, with zoo authorities from Kolkata, Hyderabad as well as South Africa, Kenya and Germany showing interest in taking them under the animal exchange programme. “Our elephants are in demand as they are well-tamed,” B Santosh Kumar, Executive Director, BBP, said.
At least eight elephants from Dubare have been sent to Kerala, Uttarakhand and Odisha so far, according to Yedukondalu V, Deputy Conservator of Forests (Territorial), Madikeri.