By Niranjan Kaggere
Elephant bank is no longer the domain of Maharajas. Guards of the forest department will patrol on elephants rather than new vehicles shortly.
The elephant patrol is likely to be introduced in tiger reserves where the department has set up anti-poaching camps (APC). Most watchers and guards patrol on foot, while a few use their own two-wheelers. Of late, the staffers have been demanding jeeps for patrolling.
"There are about four to five staffers at each of the APCs and normally they patrol in groups of two. But patrolling during rainy season is a difficult task and they want jeeps. There is a demand for at least 30 jeeps in various parts of the state," a senior official said.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) G S Prabhu told Bangalore Mirror that it is difficult to meet the demand. "Many of the APCs inside Tiger Reserves are located in difficult terrains. During rainy season you cannot even access them by walking. Though we provide vehicles they are not all terrain and all weather. What if they are stuck in between? It would cost us double the expenditure to get them back from there. Sometimes we cannot even deliver the ration and other essential requirements for these APCs using modern vehicles and staffers have to carry them literally on their back. What is the use in providing modern vehicles?" Prabhu questioned.
Prabhu, who is also the chief wildlife warden said, "As staffers find it difficult to go through dense forests during rains and scorching summer, we have told them that the department is ready to provide them with elephants. Watchers and Guards can ride on elephant back. Patrolling on elephant back is a successful model in national parks like Kaziranga in Assam and Jim Corbet in Uttaranchal.''
The department plans to make use of about 91 trained elephants currently housed at various camps under its control, of which about 30 can be diverted to APCs for patrolling. The department is also in the process of catching troublesome elephants in Sakaleshpur and other adjoining areas of Hassan which are later brought into the camps.