Sunday, November 11, 2007

Policy Views: Ending Man – Animal Conflict

North Bengal elephants are now GPS-collared

Exercise to cope with man-elephant conflict

KOLKATA : Two more elephants in north Bengal have been fitted with global positioning system (GPS) equipment, bringing the total number in the region to be thus uniquely radio-collared in the country to four.

The "intensely high levels" of human-elephant conflict in north Bengal, where 50 persons die on an average each year, led the authorities to try the exercise. The region has about 500 elephants. Only on Sunday night a rogue tusker killed three persons including a woman in the Baikunthapur forest area in Jalpaiguri district.

Prof. Raman Sukumar, Chairman, Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, who is involved in the implementation of the scheme, said on Tuesday: "The idea is to make available to wildlife managers information that will enable them to anticipate man-elephant conflicts. It has the function of an early warning system, with the managers, in turn, alerting the region's anti-depredation squads against possible attacks."

In contrast to the figures for north Bengal, the number of deaths caused by human-elephant conflict in southern India, where the elephant population is nearly 12,000, is 30 to 40 a year on an average.

Radio collaring of tigers in the Sunderbans

For the first time, four tigers in the Sunderbans in West Bengal will be radio collared as part of a pilot project sanctioned by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forestry with the purpose of providing information on matters like habitat preferences and breeding behaviour of the animal. It will also make available critical inputs for the analysis of pugmarks to be tabulated during the biennial census of the tigers scheduled for January 2006.

The daily monitoring of the tigers as a prelude to the census operations was started in April and the data collated in the course of this year will be compared with the final census figures to make for a realistic count of tigers inhabiting the world's largest mangrove swamp. The tiger count in the Sunderbans in the last census was 274.

A software has now been made available which is expected to provide a high-level of accuracy on pugmark readings and will be employed in the coming tiger census in the Sunderbans, Atanu Raha, director, Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve and Chief Conservator of Forests, West Bengal, said here on Tuesday.

Delivering this year's Bengal Science Lectures on the "The Science and the Art of Counting Tigers", Prof. Madhav Gadgil of the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, regretted the command-and-control approach employed by wild life managers across the country in wildlife studies and said that it should be replaced with a "share-and-inform regime".

Unless this was done and transparency ensured any census would suffer the possibility of being both flawed and manipulated.

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