May 30, 2024

General Studies Paper 3

Context: The Supreme Court recently dismissed the Kerala government’s appeal against the order of the Kerala HC directing the relocation of Arikomban (Wild Elephant), the “rice tusker” of Munnar, to the Parambikulam tiger reserve.

What are the Arguments in Favour of Elephant Translocation?

  • The Kerala High Court highlighted that the availability of natural food and water resources in the relocation site would deter the elephant from foraging in human settlements.
  • The court also emphasised that the elephant will be radio-collared,and its movements monitored by forest/wildlife officials, which would effectively remove the surprise element of any conflict situation.

What are the Arguments Against Elephant Translocation?

  • India’s first radio-telemetry study of a translocated problem elephant was conducted in 2006 on a large male shifted from the cropland of West Midnapore in South Bengal to the Mahananda Sanctuary in Darjeeling district.
    • Almost immediately, the elephant started damaging houses and raiding crops in villages and Army areas.
  • A study on translocated problem Asian elephants was conducted in 2012, in which a team of biologists monitored 12 male elephants translocated 16 times to different national parks in Sri Lanka.
    • The study found: Translocation caused wider propagation and intensification of human-elephant conflict, and increased elephant mortality.
  • Vinayaga,a bull that gained notoriety as a crop raider, was translocated from Coimbatore to the Mudumalai-Bandipur landscape in December 2018.
    • It soon started using gaps in the elephant-proof trench to raid crops,until he was driven back.

Way Forward

  • Relocation Impact Assessment:
    • It is important to carefully consider the specific circumstances and characteristics of each problem elephant and its potential relocation site.
      • Thorough research and analysis should be conducted to assess the availability of natural food and water resources, habitat suitability, and potential risks and challenges of translocation.
    • Monitoring and Management:
      • Proper monitoring and management plans should also be in place, including post-relocation monitoring and measures to mitigate any potential conflicts.
      • While translocation of problem elephants may be considered as a strategy to mitigate human-elephant conflicts,it should be approached with caution and based on sound scientific research, community engagement, and comprehensive management plans to minimise potential risks and ensure the well-being of both elephants and local communities.
    • Alternative to Translocation of Elephants:
      • Capturing and transforming wild elephants with the help of ‘kunkis'(a trained elephant used to capture wild ones) presents a promising approach for translocation.
      • This method can offer several benefits, including increased safety during capture operations, reduced stress on translocated elephants due to familiarization with trained ‘kunkis’, and improved success rates of translocation efforts.
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