To address the intractable human-animal conflict and to monitor the movement of rogue elephants, the Karnataka Forest Department has begun radio collaring them. For the first time in the State, the department successfully fitted radio collars onto two pachyderms in Hassan on Monday.

The department plans to fit radio collars with Global Positioning System (GPS) on at least 20 elephants in the State in the next two years.

“We reintroduced an elephant fitted with a radio collar to its herd in the forest on Monday and will [do likewise with] another animal on Wednesday morning,” elephant expert Ajay Desai told The Hindu. “The Rs.1.5-lakh radio collar is funded by WWF-India,” Mr. Desai said.

The sophisticated radio collars, customised with appropriate sensors and analysers, have radio transmitter beacons that can locate the elephants using conventional radio tracking. They also include GSM signal strength recorders and gunshot detectors. Twenty elephants will be fitted with radio collars in the next two years. The department is now working on identifying these animals, which have been destroying crops in Hassan, Madikeri, Gundlupet, Heggadadevana Kote, Bannerghatta and Magadi , a senior Forest Department official said.

According to the officer, discussions are on with experts at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.) for technical assistance. Talks are also on with a private agency, which is in the forefront of developing live tracking technology to monitor and interpret elephant movements.

While the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests permitted the radio collaring of two elephants, the department's request to radio collar 23 pachyderms was rejected, Deputy Conservator of Forest Ambadi Madhava said.

The department has identified several rogue elephants to monitor their movements. Besides destroying crops, they have also killed at least 30 persons in different parts of the State in the past three years.