By M. Raghuram
MANGALORE: Forest officials are looking at the options of either capturing or translocating the elephants after the recent incidents of human-elephant conflict reported from Alur in Hassan, Mandekolu in Dakshina Kannada and Balele in Kodagu.
However, translocation is not as easy as it may seem. Experts opine that translocation will put elephants at the risk of confrontation with humans as well as in conflict with the local elephant herd.
The High Court directed in 2011 to use the option of capturing or translocating as a means to check the human-elephant conflict.
Wildlife officials visited the conflict-prone areas of Sullia, Balele and Pushpagiri — one of the largest elephant corridors in the country.
Forest officials say expansion of human habitation has deprived the elephants of a large chunk of their natural habitat.
Forest official in Sullia
D Dinesh told Express, “A committee that was constituted in 2011 following the High Court’s order has identified 45 wild elephants in the conflict-prone region.”
The Ministry of Forests and Environment has been permitted to capture 25 elephants in Hassan by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) of Karnataka (Wildlife).
Forest officials say the elephants in Alur range of Hassan originally belonged to the region.
The herd, consisting of about 30 elephants, previously inhabited the region where villages including Ramaiahna Koplu, Makke, Kattepura Doddabetta, Malegalalu and Kadiabetta now stand.
Their annual visit to the Pushpagiri elephant habitat has been cut short by several kilometres due to various hydro-electric projects coming up alongside the corridor.
These elephants have been on the move for the past several years and they go up to Shanivarasanthe in Kodagu district and Yelsuru, Aigooru and Doddakalluru in Hassan district.
Forest Minister B Ramanatha Rai told Express, “The government is either capturing or translocating the elephants. But officials said that the elephants could come back to the same forest patch even if they were translocated 100 kilometres away.”
“We are studying the possibilities of letting them free in their natural habitats, but there is a danger that they might be hurt or even killed if the local elephants do not accept them,” Rai said.
Wildlife conservation experts say before translocating an animal, the acceptance level of the resident animals should be tested. Animals should be let free after being radio-collared and should be monitored daily to see whether the local herd has accepted them.
However, there still lies the problem of where to keep the elephants after capturing them.
Forest officials in Dubare, Chamarajanagar, Hunsur, Sakrebail in Shimoga said the elephant camps are full and cannot accommodate more.
Similar is the case in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. However, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh do seem to give some hope as their wildlife tourism is just developing and they are keen to take in elephants.
The increasing number of elephant attacks has created a fear psychosis among people. Most outdoor activities cease by 6 pm in the severely conflict-prone areas and several acres have been left fallow due to the elephant scare.
Much hope lies with the forest officials who are gathering information on the Asian elephants’ behaviour, their group management and methods to lead them into the next available space of natural habitat. Experts are studying translocation programmes in Kenya and Sri Lanka.