By Shiv Sahay Singh
In a unique attempt to control the rising elephant population in West Bengal, the State forest department is mulling on using immuno-contraceptive drug on the adult female elephant population, a method successfully used in South Africa.
State Forest Minister Benoy Krishna Barman told The Hindu on Monday that the government is in talks with the World Wildlife Fund For Nature (WWF) so that elephants can be administered with PZP (Porcine Zona Pellucida) vaccine, which can prevent pregnancy in elephants for about a year.
“If everything goes fine, the technique can be used on 100 female elephants,” Mr Barman said, adding that the elephant population in both north Bengal and south Bengal is on the rise and resulting in man-animal conflict.
“This technique will be used in the country for the first time,” said N.C. Bahuguna, Principle Chief Conservator of Forest & Head of Forest Force (West Bengal).
According to experts, the PZP contraceptive can be administered in form of a dart fired from a dart rifle. So, there is no direct contact with the elephant, reducing chances of stress on the elephant.
“This technique has been successful on African elephants,” said Ujjwal Kumar Bhattacharya Chief Wildlife Warden adding that the method has to be tried on Indian elephants.
“As a pilot project, the trial will have to be done on elephants in captivity and only then can it be administered to elephants in the wild,” he said, adding that initially the vaccine will have to be imported.
“Since culling of elephants is not allowed in India, and their population is growing while the forest area cannot be expanded, an alternative method needs to be tried,” a senior forest official said.
While more than 50 elephants have died after being run over by speeding trains in north Bengal between 2007 to 2013, more than 250 people were killed in attacks by elephants.