There is a steady growth in population of wild elephants in the State. This was revealed at a recent meeting of the steering committee of Project Elephant of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, in New Delhi.

The population of wild elephants in Tamil Nadu was 2,307 in 1993, which touched 2,971 in 1997 and 3,052 in 2002.

Two years ago, the population was estimated to be 3,867. In Kerala and Karnataka their population is on the decline.

Block and dung counting methods were adopted to arrive at the numbers, said a source in the Ministry.

Key decisions

Two important decisions were taken at the meeting – form an Elephant Task Force on the lines of Tiger Task Force; set up a rescue and rehabilitation centre for straying elephants, similar to the one functioning near the Vandalur zoo for tigers and lions rescued from circuses.

The committee expressed concern over the upkeep and maintenance of elephants in captivity.

The Ministry had issued guidelines for care and management of elephants in captivity nearly seven years ago.

It reiterated that State governments should conduct a survey and report the exact number of captive elephants in temples and other establishments. States should ensure that no illegal acquisition of pachyderms could be made.

Another complaint was on elephants being employed for begging in urban areas. In an attempt to end to this, the Maharashtra government had issued orders banning the entry of elephants within the corporation limits.

The Union Ministry requested other States to issue similar orders.

The Ministry requested State Governments not to issue any fresh ownership certificate for calves of captive elephants without DNA testing to prevent poaching.

Suggestions made

S. Vincent, Member, steering committee, Project Elephant, from Tamil Nadu, who attended the meeting, said he made a few suggestions to the Ministry, including construction of underpasses/flyovers to facilitate free movement of pachyderms across railway track/national highways; erecting bio-fences using chilly powder and other natural products to keep elephants away instead of electric fencing; identifying high risk zones of crop damage and man-animal conflict using GPRS facility; forming a conflict management committee with local communities, NGOs and volunteers; and streamlining the procedure for paying compensation to farmers for winning over local support.