An elephantine census after 5 years

All India counting exercise in May will assess the health of the iconic species

April 08, 2017 11:31 pm | Updated April 09, 2017 07:25 am IST - MYSURU

BORN FREE: The censusing of elephants will be done simultaneously in the Southern States.

BORN FREE: The censusing of elephants will be done simultaneously in the Southern States.

Volunteers and wildlife activists will fan out in May across forests and other habitats to count the actual number of wild elephants in the country.

The All-India Synchronised Asian Elephant Population Estimation, will be carried out simultaneously in the southern States from May 16 to 19, and earlier in eastern States, after a five-year gap.

In the previous counting exercise in 2012, the estimated population of wild elephants reported by the Environment Ministry was between 29,391 and 30,711, compared to 27,657 and 27,682 in 2007, the data range indicating the lower and upper bounds.

The exercise involves estimating the elephant numbers through various methods — including direct sample block counts and indirect or line transect dung counts — and the data is used to arrive at a reliable estimate of the actual population range.

The protocols have been designed and approved by the Project Elephant Directorate of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Population structure

The censusing will also help assess the population structure that includes age and sex ratio, based on direct sightings.

Dileep Kumar Das, director, Project Elephant, told The Hindu that all national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, besides forest divisions where elephants are found, will be covered.

In Karnataka, an important range State, 32 forest divisions have elephant populations or sightings of the species.

However, most are in the notified Mysore Elephant Reserve (MER), made up of forests from Bhadra in Chikkamagaluru to Nagarahole-Bandipur BRT Wildlife Sanctuary belt, besides Bannerghatta, spread over an area of nearly 11,000 sq. km.

In 2012, elephant numbers in the State were at 6,072, with the volunteers sighting and counting more than 600 elephants each in Bandipur and Nagarahole forests alone.

The census is expected to show the impact of growing conflicts with humans.

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