SUBJECT :Female elephants get radio collars 

By - Debraj Mitra

Calcutta, May 8, 2019: In a first for the state, two female elephants have been tagged with radio collars in north Bengal last week.

The collars would help in tracking the real-time location and movement of elephant herds, which could go a long way in reducing human-animal conflict, a wildlife expert said.

“While male elephants have in the past been tagged with radio collars, this is the first time we have fitted the device on female elephants. The male elephants are usually loners. Females are part of a herd and would help us monitor the patterns of a large group,” said chief wildlife warden of Bengal Ravi Kant Sinha.

The first elephant Shanta was tagged on April 29 at the Ghoramar forest near Siliguri’s Bengal Safari Park, adjoining the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, while Meenakshi was tagged on May 2 at Diana forest near Gorumara National Park.

“On both occasions, our team had been tracking the herds for 8-10 days before zeroing on the targets,” said forest department officials.

The Asian Nature Conservation Foundation, Which functions out of the campus of the Indian Institute of Science, Banglore, is undertaking the project in partnership with the Bengal forest department. A part from scientists from Banglore, the team had tranquillising experts, vets and local forest officials, who are familiar with the terrain.

The team also used Kunki (captive and trained) elephants in its project. The Kunkis infiltrated the herd and scattered the elephants. When the female target was isolated, the experts perched on the nearest kunki tranquillised her with xylazine. “The effect of the drug lasted for 40-odd minutes. But our men implanted the collars well before time,” said Sinha.

“The tagged elephants are aged between 30 and 50. They have since rejoined their herds and we are tracking them,” he added.

The GPS-enabled radios collars provide real-time updated about the location of a herd and help track them within the state as well as during migration.

“In central and western north Bengal, there is very little understanding on how the elephants utilize their habitat. The collars would help us understand this aspect better. It will also go a long way in anticipating and pre-empting man-animal conflict,” said Raman Sukumar, elephant expert and professor at the centre for ecological science at the India Institute of Science.

“The forest officials will now have real-time alert on herds close to villages so that they can send squads,” said Sukumar, who has been studying elephants for four decades. Another forest official said the elephants tagged were not the main leaders, but the number 2 in herd. “Tagging the leader could have led to more resistance from the rest of the herd, he said.

Source: The Telegraph India