Kolkata: For the first time West Bengal State Government decided to use Radio Collar to study the movement of elephant herds and possibly bring down the rising man-animal conflict in South Bengal. Because of the considerable population of elephants in West Midnapore, the department has chosen the district to initiate the pilot project.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden, West Bengal, Ravi Kant Sinha said, “This will be the first time radio collars are used on elephants in the state. The project was supposed to have been initiated ten days ago, but it was temporarily put on hold because of the search for the tiger which had recently surfaced in Lalgarh, the first sighting in the area in a century. Once that situation is under control, we will begin the collaring programme,’’ said Sinha.
The population of elephants has been on the rise in West Bengal, which is good news for the state, but this has also led to an increase in man-elephant conflict. There are 874 elephants in West Bengal currently – 194 in South Bengal and 680 in North Bengal.
Under the programme, a dominant female elephant will be identified and then separated from her herd. “After she is tranquilised, we will put a radio collar on her. She will then be released back to her herd. The process is tricky as it is always easier to catch a lone male tusker than a female elephant. The female usually decides the movement of the herd. The radio will send a signal to a satellite which will enable us to track the movement of the herd.
“Since the damage has been extensive, we are launching a separate project of monitoring the elephant corridors between Jharkhand and Bengal. There are two such corridors which we are monitoring. There is a smaller corridor to Odisha, but there isn’t that much elephant traffic here,”said Sinha. Forest officials have been mobilised to keep the corridor “as free as possible”for elephant movement and awareness programmes have been carried out in villages.
* Radio collars are expensive and cost Rs 10-12 lakh each
* The Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science has donated two radio collars to the West Bengal forest department. It has also offered to supply radio collars to the department free of charge for the project, which will be carried out in phases.