There is a move to tranquilize, capture and relocate elephants in the fragmented forest reserves of Karnataka. This was on the agenda of the discussions during an inter-action between the Project Elephant authorities, elephant task force, NGos and stake holders.
Eephant 'expertes"e met in Bangalore on Good Friday morning, discussing ways and means of stopping hungry, foraging elephants in their tracks. From what we gather, the agenda was on how to contain the growing man-animal conflict (crop raids, trampling and electrocution)in Hassan and Kodagu districts, more so in the periphery of Bandipur, Nagarhole and BRT.
While some suggested that the elephants be either be relocated or culled, others felt there was an urgent need to relocate jumbos from 'over-populated' parks, or those that have settled in small, isolated pockets of forests in Kodagu and Hassan.
A couple of NGOs are believed to have suggested that the government first address the man created problems (crop pattern, encroachment)before taking up the cudgel against forgaing elephnats.
We are losing elephants frequently to electrocution, poaching and infantile deaths. Our forests are shrinking. There is pressure from quarrying and mining. Poachers are shooting down tuskers for their ivory. There is mayhem in our forests. But the government does not seem to care about losing 200-300 elephants each year.
The recent Project Elephant exercise, to take the views all stake holders, seems to suggest our elephants are breeding like rabbits! We have taken have their habitats and destroyed elephant corridors (Raman Sukumar can throw light on how the Cicada Resorts came about in Bandipur). Yet, we blame the elephants for stumbling into our territory.
Is Project Elephant gathering consensus for culling. Wonder what Raman Sukumar, our elephant guru, has on his mind. Is he trying to please the government, which has been under pressure from MLAs from Kodagu and Hassan to rid their coffee estates of roving pachyderms? Somebody should ask him.
Sukumar and company could have done well to tell the Karnataka Forest Department (KFD) to get its act together, than relocate and cull jumbos. The KFD has comprehensively failed in its management plan. If it had bene prudent/ proactive, it would have planted bamboo saplings in its reserves, keeping in mind that the existing bamboo would flower sooner than later. Today, the entire bamboo crop, has flowered in Bandipur and Nagarhole. They are dry.
Though B G Hosmath, Field Director Project Tiger, had been approached by former conservator of forests, Mr A C Lakshman to plant bamboo saplings in Bandipur and Nagarhole, he had failed to respond the latter's call. We are told that he didn't bother to retunr the CCF's call.
According to Mr A C Lakshman, bamboo accounts for 13 per cent of Karnataka's forest cover. That means less food for our lovable elephants. Now that the bamboo has dried up, there will be pressure on villages adjacent of the forests, leading to a rise in man-animal conflicts and eventual death of more elephants.
The expert committee meeting could have probably been called keeping this in mind. Our forest officials seems to have knack at finding a way around the problems than finding long-lasting solutions. This knee-jerk capture-relocate, cull strategy will not help in the long run.
The experts and KFD should keep in mind the effect of the silastic hormone on elephants in Kruger national park in South Africa. The hormone had an adverse effect on elephants phsyology / cycle.
As early as 1994, the then Chief Wildlife Warden, M K Appayya, who had on-field experience unlike most other wildlife wardens, had talked about the need of culling elephants. At that point in time though, man-animal conflicts were not as intense as it is now.
Even if there is a boom in the elephant population in our parks, is this way out? There has to be a far-sighted solution to the elephant menace, accentuated by man's greed. Rather than taking (implementing) the recommendations of the elephant expert committee, the government should take the opinion of the masses before deciding on the fate of our jumbos.
As someone suggested, our spineless forest officials, who don't stand up for their on-field staff who are in the line of fire, should be relocated/ castrated. Not our Tuskers.