Rogue jumbos radio collared for tracking

So to carry on my run of content pieces on this website, I’ve planned to share one of my favourite articles this week. I was tentative to add it to this website because I really didn’t want to offend the original author, but I hope he/she is happy that I loved reading their work and planned to share it with my readers.

COIMBATORE: Each blue dot on the screen recorded on the satellite-imposed image of the terrain on an hourly basis indicates the presence of the 25-year-old Makhna elephant presently roaming the Siruvani range in Mannarkkad forest division.

The GPS enabled radio collar fitted on the animal has been timed to send out signals every hour since the animal has a reputation of being a habitual crop raider and troublemaker. Additional details including longitude, latitude, altitude, temperature and the speed of movement of the animal will also be available to the officials. Experts from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India in coordination with forest department officials have been engaged in tagging elephants to closely observe their behavioural patterns.

“So far, we have radio collared three elephants, two tuskers and the Makhna elephant to observe their movement patterns. These elephants were found regularly entering human habitation and so were tagged both for research and also for minimising human-animal conflict situations,” said N Mohanraj, policy advisor and wild life expert from WWF India.

The collar fitted with the signal transmitter beams the signals to the satellite which is received and then beamed back to the ground stations. These signals will be decoded and simplified to be broadcast to dedicated web servers. These web servers upload the information onto the web portal from where it could be accessed using specific username and password.

“The collar has GPS transmitter that will emit these signals. Generally we decide on the length of the strap depending on the age of the animal since we have to ensure that the animal does not feel any discomfort if its neck size increases with age. However, if the collar is too loose then it might even fall off the animal,” Mohanraj added

According to sources, discussions are on to Walkie Talkie collar six more elephants in the southern states, from the Nilgiri Biospehere in the coming months. It is also learnt that one or more of these animals could be matriarch female elephants and not just crop raiders so that the researchers would be able to understand the behaviour and movement pattern of an entire elephant herd.

The radio collar battery is expected to last for about two years and experts claimed that battery life could be extended by increasing the time interval of signal transmission. Generally, only elephants that are known to create damage to human life and property are tagged at close intervals as the main objective of tagging them is to send warning alerts.

But the GPS radio collaring exercise had gone sour in Coimbatore region after a male tusker that was tranquilised and tagged with the collar along with the female elephant died due to alleged human error during the operation resulting in a huge uproar from environmental activists.

The radio collaring project was temporarily shelved in the region after the incident in Tamil Nadu region. A female elephant was also radio collared here in Boluvampatty forest range in 2011, but the collar went missing from the animal within 10 months putting the forest department officials in a tight spot. Each GPS enabled radio collar is expected to cost more than RS 2.5 lakh.

“It is a trial and error method but all precautions are being taken while carrying out the process especially in selecting the terrain and also the dose of sedatives to be administered,” said Dr Jacob V Cheeran, a wild life expert.

According to experts, big animals like elephants should never be darted with tranquilizer in terrain which is uneven with steep slopes and gorges or with water bodies in the vicinity.

The animal may panic when hit with the dart and could suffer a fatal fall as the sedatives begin to work. The radio collared tusker here in Coimbatore was found dead in such a gorge a couple of hours after the tagging exercise.
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Each blue dot on the screen recorded on the satellite-imposed image of the terrain on an hourly basis indicates the presence of the 25-year-old Makhna elephant presently roaming the Siruvani range in Mannarkkad forest division.

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