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Synchronised elephant census to begin in May

By S. Prasad

KRISHNAGIRI, MARCH 4. A synchronised elephant census covering the elephant habitat in all Southern states is to be conducted during May 2005 after a gap of three years. Such a synchronised census is essential in order to avoid duplication of animal numbers as a result of migration to the neighbouring states, the District Forest Officer, S. Paulraj told The Hindu

During this year's census it has been proposed to follow a new and uniform technique called `Dung Count' method. In this method the dung of elephants will be counted by following line transect technique. To ensure precision in this technique a software has been developed by the Elephant Conservation Centre, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. In this method two principles are involved which includes defecation rate (number of times an elephant defecates in a day) and dung decay rate (the time (days) taken for the dung to decay and disappear from the site.

Mr. Paulraj said that in the earlier method of direct count of elephants along the transect line had many disadvantages. As elephants are not visible in dense forests there was always a possibility of missing the elephant. But in the case of dung count they are seldom missed while counting in forests.

During the last census a comparative study was also made comparing the accuracy and consistency of different census techniques, which revealed that the dung count was found to be more accurate and consistent.

In 2002 the total population of elephants in block count method was 274 while in dung count method it was 590.

As a result it has been proposed to follow this method uniformly in all southern states elephant habitat, he said.

This system involved the formation of a 2 km straight transect line and the dung visible on either side of the line will be counted. The condition of the dung as to whether it was fresh or decayed would also be recorded.

This data would subsequently be analysed with a computer formula accounting for the defecation as also the decomposition rate.

The preliminary study of finding out the dung decay rate has already commenced on February 1 and will continue till April 2005 covering different habitats.

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