Can elephant collaring help manage human-elephant conflict in Assam?
- The state's Forest Department, in partnership with the NGO World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-India, radio-collared a wild elephant for the first time in Assam's Sonitpur district last week.
- The collaborative endeavour is being promoted as a step toward studying and resolving the state's human-elephant conflict.
- According to experts, the activity is difficult and may have a poor success rate. Nonetheless, in the next months, the forest department plans to collar at least five elephants in high-conflict areas.
What are radio-collars?
- Radio collars are GPS-enabled collars worn around the neck of elephants that can transmit information about their whereabouts.
- According to a WWF blog, collaring entails selecting a suitable candidate (usually an adult elephant), administering a sedative, and securing a collar around the elephant's neck before reviving the animal.
- An accelerometer is also attached to the collar in order to ""understand what exactly an elephant is doing at any given time (running, walking, eating, drinking, etc)"".
How does radio-collaring help?
- The GPS data would aid in tracking and studying the herd's travel patterns across areas and habitats.
- It will be easier to understand what is driving the conflict if we know where they are travelling, which corridors they frequent, if the habitat is sufficient, if it need protection, and so on.
- The collars would act as an early warning system, allowing individuals to plan ahead of time if they know which way an elephant is heading.
- Since habitats are dwindling and conventional corridors are being phased out, it is critical to research the variety of transit options and create a list of new habitats. Collaring can help in this situation.
What is the plan in Assam?
- In the near future, the government plans to collar eleven elephants across the terrain, including in Sonitpur, Golaghat, Nagaon, Goalpara, and Udalguri, among other places.
- The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change approved the collaring of five elephants in Assam's Sonitpur and Biswanath districts in March 2020.
- Establishing a number of criteria, including ""minimal harm"" to the elephants during the procedure and the production of periodic reports on a regular basis
- High Risk: Both human lives and the lives of the elephants are in jeopardy.
- Expensive: Radio collaring, as well as collars and tranquilizer medications, are not accessible in India. These need to be imported, and are rather costly.
- Issue of Subject selection: Because collars can get tight, a senior elephant is typically chosen so that there is less risk of growth.
- Diversified Landscape: Topographic diversity of India poses a great challenge as different landscapes have different needs.
- Time Limited: Elephants frequently fail to keep the collar on, they'll wear it for a maximum of six months until it comes off.
- No Alternative: There is no better way to investigate conflict over time (except from collaring).
Human-Elephant Conflict in Assam
- According to the WWF blog, 761 humans and 249 elephants were killed in Assam as a direct result of human-elephant conflict between 2010 and 2019.
- More than 65% of the habitat north of the Brahmaputra River has been lost to agriculture and settlements in the last several decades.
- Human-elephant conflict has been gradually escalating Day after day.