FACED WITH a rising number of reports of wild elephants straying into human habitats, leading to crops being damaged and at least two deaths in two villages last week, Uttarakhand’s Forest department is moving to resolve the conflict — with radio tags.
As a first step, officials said, the state government is tying up with Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to tranquilise about 6-8 elephants and fit GPS-enabled radio collars around their necks starting December 1. The objective: monitor their movements in real-time and set up an “early warning system” for residents in about 30 villages near the Rajaji National Park, and Shyampur and Rasiyabad forest areas.
Officials said the government took the decision after an elephant trampled two persons to death in Jiyapota and Panjanhedi villages near the Haridwar-Laksar road on November 2. Officials said they hope to have a comprehensive system in place before the next Maha Kumbh in 2021, when thousands of pilgrims are expected to camp in the Haridwar area.
A WII team will track the elephants and record their location after every hour. The information will be shared with forest staff and guards, and village volunteer groups through a mobile application.
“The direction will also be predicted using the radio-collar system. Our officials and WII experts will map and time their movement during different weather seasons over the next year,” said Rajiv Bhartari, Chief Wildlife Warden.
“As the Kumbh Mela will be organised in winter, we will be studying movement patterns over the next few months to identify the spots from where elephants enter human habitats at this time of the year,” said Bivash Pandav, the WII scientist who is leading the team from the institute.
This is not first time when elephants will be radio-collared in Uttarakhand. “But this is first time when they will be used to prevent conflicts with humans,” he said.