‘Need to go beyond elephant numbers’

Mahesh Rangarajan, chair of the elephant task force, talks to Sumana Narayanan on the future of elephant conservation in India. The task force submitted its report on August 30, recommending a restructure of Project Elephant to an autonomous body, along the lines of National Tiger Conservation Authority

By Sumana Narayanan
Published: Thursday 30 September 2010

Mahesh RangarajanOn more robust population studies

Population estimates are currently done through sighting and pug marks. While these are fine to establish the presence of a species, we need to know population demographics in sex ratio, age groups, number of birth and deaths (to understand the viability and health of the population—are there too few young ones or too many males?). This is needed on an all- India scale.

Continuous studies are required. Hence the suggestion for a more sophisticated three-tier system—of baseline population numbers, age and sex ratio data, and a third tier superimposing this with habitat and GIS information.

On poaching data

Poaching data is in better shape because of the involvement of nonprofits. In such a large, disparate country it is not the completeness of data which is important as much as a sense of trends. Historically, the south with its big tuskers was the focus of poaching, which is also why population demographics are important.

On anti-crop raiding measures

Elephant-proof trenches don’t work. They are expensive, difficult to maintain and their efficiency is questionable. Translocation is another tool that is not to be used unless you are clear whom you are translocating—a few individuals or an entire clan. Before translocating to an area where the animal is locally extinct, the factors that led to that local extinction must be addressed to a reasonable degree.

On compensating crop damage

Compensation and insurance is the other face of this conflict. Compensa - tion can be done quickly once the mechanism is in place and the government takes a decision. For example, we have recommended `3 lakh for the death of a person. We are suggesting insurance be given for conflict areas. This is complex; the insurance company would require proof that you are taking adequate steps to protect the property. There are scattered attempts that have worked which need to be studied and up-scaled.

See full report on http:// www.moef.nic.in

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