Over 250 forest staff engaged in jumbo survey

Officials have visited all known waterholes, tanks, streams and rivers, to take pictures of elephants in Belagavi.  

Over 250 Forest Department personnel are currently engaged in scanning bamboo bushes and clearings in forests, waterbodies and grasslands in Belagavi district to make sure the 14-16 elephants tracked five years ago are still around.

The officials in Khanapur and other forest areas will record the area and the time of sighting of these pachyderms. If lucky, they may get to see the lone resident elephant in this group – an ageing, one-eyed tusker who wanders between forest patches, but never migrates.

The teams of three and four are working in a systematic manner for the last three days. At first, they combed 34 blocks of forests, measuring between 7,000-12,000 hectares, recording sightings of elephants and their global positioning system locations. Secondly, they visited all known waterholes, tanks, streams and rivers, to take pictures of herds. They have counted how many juveniles, calves, sub-adults, and adults were found, and have tabulated how many of them were males and females. On Friday, the officials tried the line-transect droppings count method. In this, forest guards and watchers walk along a two km line and look for elephant dung. They take GPS readings and measure the size of the dung. They mark the area in which it is found, including the distance from the measuring line.

“By Saturday morning, officials will have compiled their data and sent it to the Chief Conservator of Forests, elephant project in Mysuru,” Basavaraj Patil, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Belagavi, told The Hindu.

Fifth survey

The random sample survey of elephants began in the 1970s, though it attained formal shape in 2002. The survey methodology perfected that year is being tried for the third time now. It is carried out once every five years. The last two surveys revealed that we have between 14-16 elephants, who are migratory. They spend six months in the Belagavi division, from September to January. By the beginning of February, they move to other forest areas. Unlike other south Indian states, there is only one resident elephant, an adult male. It has lost one eye to conflict or disease and remains elusive. It is usually very peaceful and quiet, said Mr. Patil.

The survey is a pan-India effort, coordinated by the Union government, in which the Forest Departments of concerned States are participating. The southern block, which includes Maharashtra and other south Indian states, is hoping to complete its survey by Saturday morning. The raw data is processed at Mysuru and at New Delhi, to eliminate double sightings in adjoining districts or states. The total collated data across the country should be available in a few months, the DCF said.

The field staff were trained in the survey methodology on May 16. They began working from May 17 morning.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 11:03:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/over-250-forest-staff-engaged-in-jumbo-survey/article18511537.ece

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