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2 Jul 2018

Bengal forests home to 682 jumbos, shows census report

Bengal forests home to 682 jumbos, shows census reportSOUMITRA NANDI | MP | 2 July 2018 12| Kolkata: At a time when reports of elephant census through the dung decay method is awaited, the state Forest department is happy with the pachyderm count going up to 682 in the state concluded by the direct count method.While there are 488 jumbos found in the forests of North Bengal, the count in the South Bengal forests is 194. The last census of the elephants was done in 2014 through the direct count method when the number stood at 590 in the forests of North Bengal. South Bengal, however, did not feature in the census.
On being questioned about the dip in the count in comparison to the census in 2014, state Chief Wildlife Warden Ravi Kant Sinha said, "The jumbos are migratory animals and can move to other regions like Odisha and Jharkhand from South Bengal and to the north eastern states like Assam and countries like Nepal, Bhutan from North Bengal. There is an average of more than a hundred animals which are always on the move. So, there is nothing to worry about the count."
The state Forest department now compiles a daily report on the elephant movement through WhatsApp and other messaging services with the help of the locals. "This helps us to have an idea of the range wise presence of the pachyderms and alert locals of probable encroachment on human settlement areas," a senior Forest department official said.
The state Forest department is eagerly awaiting the count by dung decay method, which according to experts, is being used to get more accurate data.
"In direct sighting method, it is possible that some elephants cannot be counted because of non visibility in dense forests. With dung-decay method, we will get more accurate figure," an expert said.
He added that various factors are observed in the method including dung density, decay rate and defecation rate.
Fresh piles of elephant dung is marked in a particular area following which photographs are taken and the GPS location is recorded. The marked dung area is revisited after a certain period to understand the decay rate of dung.
The dung decay method is the brainchild of Raman Sukumar, Professor, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. Interestingly, the first experiment of the count by this method was done in Buxa Forests in North Bengal.
The state Forest department is maintaining a close coordination with the North Frontier Railways to check deaths of elephants on railway tracks. "Regulation of speed, putting signage posts along the track in elephant crossing zones, alerting loco pilots time and again are being done to check jumbo deaths," the official added.

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