Field staff to be trained in managing elephant reserves

COIMBATORE, DEC. 27. A project to impart training to the field staff of the Forest department for managing elephant reserves and for handling pachyderms has been launched by the department.

The training programme, at an outlay of Rs. 23 lakhs by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Virginia State, USA, would be implemented by the Coimbatore Circle of the Forest Department in association with the AVC College Mayiladuthurai.

The Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore Circle, Dr. T. Sekar, coordinator of the course, told The Hindu that the project aims to train about 320 field staff.

Each programme would be spread over two weeks with theoretical and practical sessions.

The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Mr. J.C. Kala, who mooted the idea, had already given directions to relieve the staff in the rank of forest guards, foresters and rangers in batches.

The participants had been drawn from 14 forest divisions covering the four elephant reserves spread over the districts of Dharmapuri, Vellore, Erode, Coimbatore, Dindigul, Madurai, Virudhunagar and Tirunelveli besides the Periyar Tiger Reserve.

The programme includes imparting of ecological aspects such as vegetation studies, carrying capacity, food habits, seasonal movements and home range, breeding and social organisations.

The other areas of training would be population estimation using direct and indirect techniques, management of elephant corridors, minimising threats from grazing, fire invasion, weeds, encroachments and human-elephant conflicts.

It would also include capture, disease and veterinary health care issues connected to wild and captive elephants. Environmental impact assessment of various development activities and protection measures in elephant reserves including anti- poaching strategies, legal and awareness aspects in pachyderm conservation would be the agenda.

The personnel would be equipped to handle contingencies in the event of man-animal conflicts. The programme would be undertaken at the Theppakkadu Elephant camp auditorium in Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary in the Nilgiris. The resource persons are from educational, research institutions and non- governmental organisations. Some of the renowned elephant experts including Dr. V. Krishnamoorthy and Dr. Prof. Jacob V. Cheeran would provide hands-on training experience to them.

The institutions providing faculty support are the Forest department, the Animal Husbandry department, the Indian Institute of Sciences-Bangalore, the AVC College-Mayiladuthurai, the SACON-Coimbatore, the Forestry College-TNAU, the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, the CPR foundation and the Centre for Environment Education, Tirupur.

The Conservator said during the first three months of the next year, there would be training programmes on tranquilising elephants besides `focussed' training for mahouts and veterinarians dealing with wildlife at Top Slip in the Indira Gandhi Wild Life Sanctuary.