Zoos in Karnataka, particularly the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens in Mysuru and the Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) in Bengaluru, will be among of the study areas of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehardun, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, which is carrying out a project on population management of species involved in man-animal conflict in the country.
The pilot project is being carried out under the Centrally-sponsored scheme of Integrated Development Wildlife Habitats (CSS-IDWH). The ₹10.65-crore project has been spread over three years.
According to the WII, the project aims to assess the current status of man-animal conflict with the aim of reducing its impact.
The project has been divided into two phases. Phase 1 will deal with developing the appropriate tools of population control and developing a protocol for field implementation. Phase 2 will deal with in-house production of drugs and large-scale implementation at the field level by the Forest Department.
Under this project, four herbivore species — rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta), nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), and elephant (Elephant maximus) — have been identified as the focal species, according to information sourced from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, wildlife division.
The project aims to develop appropriate reproductive control techniques for managing the population of “problem species” below the tolerance level, and to understand the ecological aspects of conflict management.
The proposed study will information on the efficacy and feasibility of reproductive control by various procedures. It will also quantify damage by animals in select areas and assess the perception of locals towards resolving human-animal conflict, a note from the ministry, a copy of which is available with The Hindu , said.
The findings of the study will eventually help in implementing effective management practices that will reduce the intensity of the problem.
The study may serve as a “standard model” to be replicated across different geographic regions for mitigating man-animal conflict. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) C. Jayaram said the project has been taken up on a pilot basis and would be implemented in selected populations where the problem has been noticed if the initiative proves successful.
“The project deals with contraception for temporary birth control in the species. The vaccine is injected into female species, which eventually stops conceiving for a temporary period. Such a programme was carried out at Kruger National Park in South Africa for controlling the population of elephants,” Mr. Jayaram said.
He said the population of bonnet macaque has increased both in rural and urban areas in the south, like that of the rhesus macaque in north India. “The female bonnet monkeys will be the focal study species in the State,” he said.
Zoo Authority of Karnataka member-secretary B.P. Ravi said the WII has sought permission for carrying out trial studies on nilgais and elephants in the zoos.
CM’s directive to officials
The Forest Department has been directed to prepare a plan to find a permanent solution to the man-animal conflict in the State, especially with Karnataka having the highest density of elephants in the country.
The direction came from Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy at a meeting of officials of Hassan, Chickmagaluru, and Kodagu to discuss man-elephant conflicts in these districts. He directed the officials to submit a plan considering the needs of the next four or five years, a release from the CMO said.
While a total of 71 km has been fenced using rail line fencing, there is a need to construct 400-500 km more of rail fence. The CM also asked officials to seek rail lines at a discounted rate from the Railways.