BHUBANESWAR: The state government on Saturday roped in a private agency to conduct a "carrying capacity" study of elephants to ensure a sustainable habitat for the jumbos, sources said.
The government signed an MoU with Bangalore-based Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF), a private agency, for conducting the study of the habitat of elephants in the state.
"The study will focus on how to improve the present condition of their habitat. The scientists and biologists will identify the factors that require improvement in the existing elephant sanctuaries," said principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) S Srivastav.
He said the experts would take note of the availability of food, shelter, water bodies and elephant corridors in the existing sanctuaries "After the study, the ANCF will suggest steps to improve the habitat. Then we will put forth the suggestions before the government for further action," said Srivastav. He said the government would pay ANCF for the study.
ANCF managing trustee and ecologist at Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore) Raman Sukumar, who will head the team of experts coming to the state for the study, said sustaining the elephant habitat was a critical issue.
"Odisha has a good elephant population but due to lack of proper wildlife management, elephant casualties are on the rise, mostly due to man-animal conflict, poaching and electrocution," said Sukumar. He said Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) in Mayurbhanj district had immense potential to become a conducive habitat for the pachyderms.
He further said that the help of local communities living in adjoining areas of the sanctuaries was required to improve the habitats. "The corridor and the passage that is regularly used by migrating elephants would also be part of the study. Odisha has more than 1,900 elephants, which are mainly concentrated in Chandaka, STR and Mahanadi wildlife reserves," said Sukumar.
The state in the past four years has seen 282 elephants being killed. Till June 2012, the state estimated the survival of 1,930 elephants in different elephant corridors and sanctuaries.
According to the 2010 census, 1,886 elephants lived in the state. "Since October 2013, electrocution cases of elephants have come down although in 2011-12 alone 16 elephants were killed by electrocution," said a wildlife official.
2009-10 - 51 elephants
2010-2011- 83 elephants
2011-12- 68 elephants
2012-13- 80 elephants
12 elephants killed in train accidents in 2011 and 2012-13