All is not bad with the Indian wildlife. The country has witnessed an increase in elephant population between 2002 and 2007, despite the big animal getting killed by poachers or during man-animal conflict or in accidents. This comes after the dwindling tiger population figures of 3,642 in 2001 to 1,411 in 2007.
The environment ministry’s latest census on elephant population in India reveals that its number has increased by 1,367 in the last five years. The census figures are for entire the country except northeast, where the elephant census is still going on. Result of census from northeast is expected in March.
But, elephant experts like Dr RK Singh of Wildlife Trust of India, are skeptical about the projected increase in population. “The increase may be because of same elephants being counted in two different states. There is no mechanism to prevent this duplication,” he said. Environment ministry officials, however, said the aspect of duplication has been considered in the census methodology.
The increase in population may be good news for wildlife watchers but it may spell doom for villages around the elephant habitats. The last few yeas have witnessed numerous cases of elephants attacking villages and destroying farmland falling in their natural corridor of movement. “With destruction of natural corridors, the elephants are forced to venture out. And when such a big animal moves the crops are destroyed. This has happened because their natural corridors have got fragmented,” explained Ravi Chellam, an environmentalist, who was earlier working with United Nations Development Fund.
Singh said such man-animal conflict incidents are bound to increase in future if the government fails to restore the elephant’s natural habitats.