Bengaluru: The state forests department’s plans to shift elephants from the overcrowded Mathigod camp home to many Dasara jumbos in Nagarhole to existing nature camps in Muthathi and Dandeli have left wildlife conservationists and experts worried.
Pointing out that forests around elephant camps are becoming degraded due to over grazing by their captive elephants and leading to conflict between the tame jumbos and the wild in the forests late at night, conservationists strongly feel the department needs to do a re-think.
“Both Dandeli and Muthathi have been gaining in elephant population over the last few years, and setting up camps for captive elephants in these parts could have an adverse effect on the jumbos in the wild here.
The degradation of forests around the present elephant camps shows that camp elephants take away the fodder of the wild elephants. Forests are already under pressure from livestock grazing and the camp elephants will only make matters worse,” says one worried conservationist.
Senior wildlife conservationist, K M Chinnappa suggests that captive elephants should be given to temples and institutions to decongest camps. “Elephants that are tied and have restricted grazing ground destroy the environment of the forests around the camp site.
The same degradation will now be recorded in Muthathi and Dandeli once the camps become operational there,” he warns.
The conservationists also point out that the Range Forest Officers under whom the elephant camps operate, hardly make any trips inside the forests to see the destruction for themselves or take protective measures.
“The RFOs handling the elephant camps in the tiger reserve are busy drawing up bills and paying the mahouts and other staff. By constructing more camps we are increasing access of people to forest areas,” adds another wildlife expert.
Chief Wildlife Warden, Vinay Luthra, however justifies the move to create new camps saying its neccessary to spread them out and decongest the existing. Also, these elephants coould be used for forest patrolling in areas which are not easily accessible by vehicle or by foot during the monsoon, he adds.
Tiger mauls forest grazer to death
A cattle grazer ,who had wandered deep inside the BRT tiger reserve, walked straight into a tiger resting atop a boulder and was mauled to death, according to a forest officer. As grazing inside the tiger reserve is banned, no compensation will be paid to his family.
11 elephants from state for MP
Besides setting up new camps, the forest department plans to give away some of its captive elephants to other states. While 11 elephants from different camps will go to Madhya Pradesh, another six will go to Kerala and a tusker is being sent to Goa.
The state forest department, which has the highest number of rescued elephants (140) , could get two more from Coorg district where they are expected to be caught in the coming week. The recent elephant capturing operations in Hassan have added over 20 elephants to the camp population of the state.