Special Correspondent

Microchips to be implanted for identification

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: All captive elephants in Kerala will have electronic tags in about two months.

The State Forest Department stepped up implantation of microchips for their identification following increasing incidents of elephants turning rough during festivities.

The Department, in cooperation with the Police and Revenue Department, plans to have a tighter leash on maintenance of captive elephants in the State. Identification will be crucial for enforcement of the rules.

The Department proposes to insist on minimum space for elephants paraded during festivities to check violent behaviour. This may result in reduction of number of elephants at some temple festivals.

Around 50 incidents of elephants turning rough had occurred in the State during the past four months. In half a dozen cases, it had led to injuries, loss of property and even death. In a widely publicised incident at Chettuva in Thrissur last week, a mahout was killed and 17 devotees were injured during a temple festival.

The Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) V. S. Varghese said that there would be about 800 to 1,000 captive elephants in the State. Already, the Department has tagged about 175 of them. It was going to be a difficult task to track the elephants and tag them unless the owners cooperated.

The elephant would have to be made to lie down before the tiny chip could be injected under one of its ears. The chip is so tiny (less than the size of rice grain) that it could not be easily located after implantation except by using electronic devices. A microchip reader is used to read the identification number from the chip by keeping the device near the elephant. (The reader uses low frequency radio signal to activate the transponder in the chip and get the number.)

A variety of stress factors induce rough behaviour in elephants besides masth. They include poor health, lack of food, overwork, ill treatment, heat, sound and light. Elephants are also provoked by injuries caused by other elephants, mahouts and others.

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