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Doubts linger over radio-collaring of wild elephants in Odisha after the Chhattisgarh fiasco

It is of utmost importance to carefully assess the effectiveness and durability of the collars keeping in view the fact that the project failed in Chhattisgarh.

SNS | Bhubaneswar |

Conservationists have cast doubts over the effectiveness and life of the radio collars proposed to be fitted on problematic tuskers of Odisha to monitor their movement in the wake of the failure of the project in neighbouring Chhattisgarh

It is pertinent to note here that the Odisha forest department has decided to tag problematic tuskers in Chandaka wildlife sanctuary with radio collars to track their migration path in a bid to curb the incidence of pachyderm depredation in human habitation areas. Plans are also afoot to radio collar wild elephants in Sundargarh division and other parts of the State.

“While this initiative to closely monitor tuskers is laudable, the available radio collar technology may not deliver expected results given its failure in Chattisgarh”, wildlife and environment activist, Biswajit Mohanty said while dashing off a letter to the Chief Wildlife Warden raising question over the success of the project.

“Radio collaring elephants which were started in collaboration with Wildlife Institute of India in October 2018 in Chhattisgarh has not been successful as the collars used dropped off or were removed by the elephants themselves within a short time ranging from 4 days to a few months. Out of a total of 7 radio collars fitted to the elephants in Chhattisgarh as of now, only 1 remains active, the rest having fallen off”, he noted.

With the radio-collaring, the real-time location of the problematic animals will go a long way in putting brakes on the marauding elephants from causing loss to life and property, a senior forest official said, refusing to comment on the effectiveness and durability of the radio-collaring initiative.

It is a fact that elephants are extremely intelligent animals and also playful in nature. A radio collar fitted on a tusker attracts the attention of the rest of the herd and some adventurous animal tries to tug it with its tusk, pulling it off in the process. Though the pre-charged battery is expected to last at least 5 years it is a pity that 6 transmitters were lost within a short time; some fell off within 5 days too, he informed.

A radio collar costs around Rs.5 lakhs and there are additional costs of at least Rs. 5 lakhs per year to track the satellite signals and monitor the elephant.

It is of utmost importance to carefully assess the effectiveness and durability of the collars keeping in view the fact that the project failed in Chhattisgarh.

Odisha needs to obtain all information from Chhattisgarh Forest Department about the performance of the radio collars fitted on elephants by Wildlife Institute of India during the period 2018 to 2020 and assess its effectiveness before fitting radio collars on elephants of Odisha, Mohanty concluded.