In a bid to reduce the human-animal conflict in Kodagu district, the Karnataka forest department officials have started an operation to track the real-time movement and location of elephant herds in the district. Officials of the forest department have attached GPS-enabled radio collars on six elephants from six different herds.
The elephants are from Thithimathi, Virajpet and Kushalnagar forest ranges in the district. This covers areas such as Maldare, Siddapura, Paalibetta, Ammathi and Palangala.
“We have fitted these collars for the first time on six elephants from six different groups so that we know where the elephants are at all times. This information will help us in managing any conflict between human beings and elephants," explains Maria Christhu Raja, Deputy Conservator of Forests (Madikeri).
The collars were fitted by forest officials with the help of three captive and trained elephants - Bheema, Krishna and Abhimanyu. These elephants were used to familiarise with the elephants in the six herds.
First, the female leader, usually the largest and strongest in a herd, is identified. When she is isolated, the experts give her a dosage of a tranquilising drug determined according to the size and strength of the elephant. When the elephant falls asleep, the collar is fitted on the elephant.
The movement of the elephants is being tracked since the elephants have a habit of straying into plantation areas, destroying crops and killing humans. Farmers in the area have suffered crop losses in coffee plantations and paddy fields due to elephants and are hopeful that the latest step to track the movement of the animals will help secure their crops.
Information from the GPS tracker will be monitored by the officials of the forest department.
The decision to fit elephants with GPS collars comes at a time when there is a rise in the human-elephant conflict in the forests of Kodagu, particularly in Palangala village.
In April, an elephant was shot dead by a resident in Palangala village. Around the same time, forest officials rescued five elephants stuck in a slushy pond in the village.
The conflict has led to the loss of both elephant and human lives and forest officials say that the lack of water available in the forest is forcing elephants to turn to coffee plantations in search of water. Forest officials have attempted to dig trenches and set up solar fencing, iron fencing, spike pillars, among other solutions to resolve the problem.
"If we are able to track one elephant from each herd, we can understand where each herd is at all times. We don't know sometimes when the elephants turn up in these estates," says Gopal, a forest officer from Virajpet.
With inputs from Mubarak