The Forest Department has decided to put the elephant tracking Global Positioning System (GPS) initially on four wild elephants to track their movements.
Karnataka is the first state in the country to do the experiment to address the issue of man-elephant conflicts in seven districts, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) G S Prabhu told Express.
To begin with, the department has selected four jumbos in Bandipur National Park that were posing problems in Kodagu and Hassan districts attacking human beings and damaging crops. More and more pachyderms would be collared depending upon the success of this experiment.
This has been experimented in Sri Lanka where 10 elephants had been collared. This helped the forest authorities of the island nation to track its movements and alert villagers much before they enter human habitation, Prabhu said.
GPS is based on a network of satellites using which the location of an object on the ground can be obtained. So these new collars obtain an extremely accurate location for the jumbos every four hours. Then they transmit that information (6 locations for each day) once a day to another satellite that relays it back to the ground. In this way, they will get precise data on elephant movements, and they can answer many questions that are relevant to their management.
He said the improvised version of the GPS collars for jumbo tracking is developed by Department of Electronics Study, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
They are technically advanced, water-proof, cost effective and even the battery life is more than two years. The collars used by the South African forest authorities were not much advanced as they were not water-proof, very expensive and even battery life was shorter. The cost of IISc-developed collar is Rs 1.5 lakh each and it weighs less than 2 kg. The collars will be fixed around the neck of jumbos after tranquilising them. Once it is done, their movements can be monitored on computers, laptops and mobile phones. “Since, sim cards are not issued in the name of elephants, I am buying in department’s name,” he noted.
The PCCF said the department has identified leaders of four elephant herds which are known for raiding villages often. With the collars, the department can alert elephant-driving staff to reach villages before the jumbos raid them.
Each herd is led by a male jumbo and supported by two other elephants. The herd follows its leader wherever it goes.
“If we collar the leader, it will help us dentify the location. For the time being, we have decided to fix this device on four elephants. After sometime we will fix it on other jumbos too. Once we do it, neighbouring states, Kerala and Tamil Nadu may follow the suit. Our intention is to check man-elephant conflict which is quite serious in the state,” he added.