By Akram Mohammed
Lack of communication between the staff involved in the elephant capture operation and the residents of villages affected by human-animal conflict in Alur and Sakleshpur taluks of Hassan district, has resulted in a setback for the Forest department.
The Oversight Committee of the elephant capture operation has suggested to the department to catch the female elephants of a herd together, using radio-collars.
However, a seeming misunderstanding among residents of Maradikere village, near Yasalur forest range, about the capture of female elephant, resulted in the former staging a protest against the release of the captured pachyderm into the wild.
With all the 12 male elephants being shifted as soon as they were captured, the villagers had questioned the wisdom of the department of radio-collaring the female elephant and releasing it back to the wild on Saturday (April 5). This forced the Forest department to shift the captured sub-adult female to Anedoddi elephant camp at Periyapatna taluk in Mysore district, without employing radio-collars to capture the whole herd of female elephants.
As adult male elephants are generally solitary, the Committee recommended that male elephants could be captured one by one. However, since female elephants exist in closely knit matriarchal units, the members had recommended that all elephants belonging to a particular family group be captured together.
As per this suggestion, a female elephant from a family group would be captured first, fitted with a radio collar, and released.
Once the female returned to the group, it would enable the capture team to identify other members of its family group that would later be captured together. This will enable the teams to follow the family group, locate and dart them one by one.
Immediately after other members of the family group are captured, the radio collared female and the matriarch too would be finally captured.
“While removal of elephants from Alur is the objective of this operation, it is also vital that the elephants are captured in a manner that minimises stress and trauma to them. Capturing individuals from herds together, and holding them in the elephant camp in close proximity to one another, especially calves and mothers, will certainly help reduce stress,” said M D Madhusudan of the Nature Conservation Foundation, also a member of the Committee.
Responding to protests by villagers of Maradikere, he said that their anxiety about the release of the female after radio-collaring was understandable, and the department and members of the Committee would have to explain to people in the surrounding villages the need to release a radio-collared female to enable the efficient capture of herds. “Capture of such a large number of elephants is a complex and difficult operation. Capturing of entire herds together has not been attempted after the last khedda, nearly 45 years ago,” he recalled.
Speaking to Deccan Herald, Ganesh Bhat, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Hassan, said that the department could not radio-collar the elephants owing to the protests by the villagers. “We have shifted the elephant to Periyapatna owing to the protests.
Now, however, we have been successful in convincing the villagers about the necessity of using radio-collars to capture whole herds at a go,” he said.
He added that with another herd being tracked by the department, the teams will make use of radio-collars as soon as the next capture is made. “We have two radio-collars at our disposal, which will be used,” Bhat added.