NATIONAL

Elephant census in Western Ghats in May

V.S. Palaniappan

COIMBATORE: Forest officials here are getting ready along with their counterparts in Karnataka and Kerala for a census of elephants in the forests in the Western Ghats.

Some 600 officials and as many wildlife enthusiasts and volunteers will scour the Mudumalai, Bandipur, Coimbatore, Anaimalai and Parambikulam forests to cross check the figure of 2,000 elephants arrived at in a census by the States separately four years ago.

During earlier studies, elephants migrated across the region, skewing the results.

Now the synchronised headcount will be conducted on a 3,000-sqkm area from May 5 to 7, according to T. Sekar, Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore Circle.

The exercise, to be conducted across the country at the same time, will help officials in planning improvement of water and fodder availability.

The growth in animal population will indicate the health of the habitat and the success of conservation programmes.

The teams will look for elephants in ponds and other waterbodies; others will count the number of pachyderms in a geographical area.

The foresters will also look at blobs of dung, whose size, shape and freshness will help to estimate the size of the herd.

The census will focus on the demographic profile of the pachyderms, classifying them as adults, sub-adults, juvenile calves, male, female and `makhna' (male elephant without tusks)," says Mr. Sekar.

Deer sightings

The forest staff will record sightings of herbivores and carnivores such as the Indian gaur, spotted sambar, barking deer and the panther family.

The data will be compiled in 15 days.

The department proposes to conduct a census towards May-end of specific species such as the lion-tailed macaque and the Nilgiris tahr.

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