Bengaluru

Nice tusks, but need to see your ID, sir

A wild elephant at the Bandipur National Park in Mysuru.— File Photo: M.A. Sriram  

As fanciful as it sounds, imagine an Aadhaar card-type unique identification system for elephants.

The expected scenario is this: an elephant strolls in the forest, and the tracker – or a camera trap – quickly sees the identification marks. This is correlated with a catalogue of elephants and their identification marks. With the “code” obtained, other details such as its migratory paths, previous movements, age and so on can be detected.

While it is bound to take time to develop such a system, the Karnataka Forest Department has started the process in national parks in Nagarhole, Bandipur, BRT Tiger Reserve, Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary and M.M. Hills Sanctuary.

“We have cameras in these parks that have been used to identify tigers and leopards. Elephants too can be identified. Just like the big cats, each elephant has unique identification marks: shapes and cuts in ears, tail, size of tusks and even toe nails that can help us keep track of the mammals,” said Ravi Ralph, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife).

The system will primarily focus on male tuskers, who tend to roam the forests alone and are most vulnerable to poaching or most likely to raid crops, he said.

However, unlike the tiger monitoring system, this proposal faces logistical challenges. While there are roughly 300 tigers in the State, the population of elephants is over 6,000. Officials also point out that tigers remain territorial, allowing for easier camera trapping in a particular area, but elephants are largely migratory.

And, while a massive camera infrastructure exists – with Nagarhole and Bandipur having nearly 1,400 camera traps – the entire set-up had been designed for tigers.

“The cameras are placed at a height of around three feet to capture tigers and leopards. For elephants, we will have to place them above 10 feet. But, even by making modifications to the cameras and raising them to this height, we may miss out on smaller calves. Elephant experts will be consulted to aid us in designing this system,” said H.C. Kanthraj, Director of Nagarhole National Park.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 9:02:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/nice-tusks-but-need-to-see-your-id-sir/article7682956.ece

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