After Tigers, time to count Jumbos

Coimbatore: After the wild tiger trail, it’s now time for a day out with the jumbos.

The synchronized elephant census in all elephant habitats in the country is carried out every five years. In the last census, 27694 elephants were found across 1,19,550 sqkm of their habitats in the country.

The state forest department conducts synchronized census by adopting both the direct sighting and dung method.

Indian elephants face a serious threat from poachers, who kill the bulls for their precious ivory. Besides, the high-voltage electric fencing of agri-farms, speeding trains and concrete encroachments in the elephant corridors are taking a toll on the biggest land animal.

“Poaching, electrocution and train accidents are the key causes of unnatural death of elephants,” the Project Elephant Director and inspector general of forest, Prasad. In the last 3 years, as many as 124 elephants died of electrocution when they came into contact with illegal electric fencing put up by farmers to drive away the raiding pachyderms. Poachers have killed 47 bull elephants since 2006 and speeding trains have run over 29 elephants over the last three years.

The Union ministry of environment and forests has now set up a task force to save the endangered Indian elephants.

“The sex ratio of elephants is rather skewed. For instance, for every 20 female elephants there is only one bull in Mudumalai sanctuary now. Losing even one tusker to poaching or other unnatural causes will seriously upset the balance,” says wildlife biologist Dr Ajay Desai.

Though the elephant population in South India is increasing slowly, wildlife activists insist that the vigil against poachers and electric fencing has to be stepped up. During the census, volunteers will measure the size of the elephant’s dung and take the faeces samples to assess their population.

They will also stake out block by block to get direct sighting of elephants.

In Tamil Nadu, elephants are spread over 12,000 sqkm of jungles, especially along the Western Ghats. In the famous Mudumalai tiger sanctuary in the Nilgiris alone, 898 elephants were found during the 2005 census. “The elephant population in Tamil Nadu is showing an increase because of the drive against poaching and electric fencing of farm lands. We hope the census will show a further increase in elephant population in Tamil Nadu,” said a senior Tamil Nadu forest official.

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