Kerala

India has 27,312 elephants, census shows

Boost in numbers: Karnataka leads the chart with over 6,000 elephants.

Boost in numbers: Karnataka leads the chart with over 6,000 elephants.   | Photo Credit: M.A. Sriram

Preliminary results from the first-ever synchronised all-India Elephant Population Estimation pegs India’s Asian elephant population at 27,312. The estimate, derived from the sighting-based direct count method alone, will be confirmed with estimates from the indirect dung-count method in three months.

According to the report, released by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change on August 12, Karnataka has the highest number of elephants (6,049), followed by Assam (5,719) and Kerala (3,054).

The numbers are lower than from the last census estimate in 2012 (between 29,391 and 30,711). But experts say parallels cannot be drawn, because in the 2012 count, various states used different methodologies and the effort was not synchronised across the country; errors and duplication could have led to overestimation.

This time, a number of indices, including birth rate, indicate that the elephant population is increasing, says Raman Sukumar from the Indian Institute of Science. Prof. Sukumar has been studying elephant populations for more than two decades. “Nobody can dispute the fact that their geographical range has increased.” R.K. Srivastava, Director of Project Elephant, concurs: “There has been a marginal increase in elephant numbers ever since the 1990s.”

Man-animal conflict

In fact, Mr. Srivastava says, “Due to habitat fragmentation, elephants are moving out to agricultural landscapes leading to an increase in man-elephant conflict.” He thinks elephant populations will need to be checked.

M. Anandakumar, scientist at the Nature Conservation Foundation, who studies man-elephant conflict in India, says, “Conflict includes both crop damage and loss of lives, there is no single solution for both.”

The census, conducted between March and May this year, covered 1.10 lakh square kilometres and spanned four regions of the country: the northeast, east-central, south and north.

The Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF) at the Indian Institute of Science (Bengaluru), several NGOs and independent conservationists aided the Project Elephant Directorate and forest departments of 23 states in this exercise.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2020 2:10:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/india-has-27312-elephants-census-shows/article19504528.ece

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