BHUBANEWAR: In the Bharatpur Forest Reserve of the Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary, forestry teams have been searching for Ramu for the past two days. In his thirties, the male elephant would be the first conflicting jumbo to be fitted with a radio collar in Odisha, if everything falls into place.
Ramu was seen on Wednesday but it was already 5:30 p.m. and throwing the jumbo in the late afternoon was not a good idea. On Thursday, the teams made three attempts but to no avail. Friday could be their lucky day, but it’s about having a good time and also a good place.
The conflicting elephant radio collar has been tested in Assam, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Karnataka and Uttarakhand. It was also made in Nepal and Bhutan, but Odisha is trying it for the first time. The project, taken up by the Asian Foundation for Conservation of Nature (ANCF) and the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, was planned two years ago, but Covid opposed it. The State Wildlife Wing and the ANCF team are now on the ground to move it forward.
The first subject, Ramu, has been in conflict for several years. Separated from his flock, he had strayed into Pipili and other parts of Khurda’s division and had even killed some people. Standing at around eight and a half feet, her height and maximum growth is considered perfect for the radio collar.
The elephant’s radio collar, however, could be tricky. If the jumbo is in the growing stage, putting on necklaces could be a futile exercise as it could break. Sometimes it could be counterproductive if the collar stiffens the animal’s neck. Also, the whole exercise of darting the jumbo and adjusting the collar while standing is “jumbo” work. Sometimes JCBs are used to keep the head still. The Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary teams leave nothing to chance.
The collar Ramu would be equipped with will have GSM connectivity for easy tracking. There are two other “makhanas” in Chandaka and one of them could be next for the second phase of necklaces. The two continue to enter the Nandankanan Zoo and damage its outskirts, in addition to clashing with local villagers, causing headaches in the forestry department. For this, Ramu’s must go smoothly. The third is the subject of an in-depth study. From Rairangpur, this jumbo will be fitted with a radio collar as part of a study on the movement of elephants for a mining project in Badampahar. Although the area has more than one elephant, the one on Wildlife Wing’s radar is not problematic.
“In addition to tracking the elephants to minimize conflict, placing radio collars on this elephant would provide us with valuable data about the group, its movements and its behavior. As a herd leader, this elephant can be insightful. This will contribute to management practices, ”said Chief Wildlife Officer Sashi Paul. The Wildlife Wing is looking to equip this elephant with a hybrid radio collar. Hybrid radio collars are mainly designed in Germany and South Africa and made available in India from a single supplier.