The Uttarakhand forest department and researchers from Wildlife Institute of India (WII) have come across a ‘giant’ elephant near Haridwar in Rajaji landscape recently which they say is so huge they can’t radio collar it. They said it is one of the biggest elephants they have come across in the Himalayan state, where the elephant population has crossed the 2000 mark, according to the elephant census released a few days back.
Bivash Pandav, a senior scientist from WII, who is heading the identification and selection process, confirmed that this was one of the largest animals found in the particular landscape.
“This elephant is likely to be one of the largest animals in the area around Haridwar forest division, where it primarily roams around and goes up to Uttar Pradesh. We have also seen it in the eastern part of Rajaji Tiger Reserve occasionally. It moves in the human-dominated area, except crop-raiding it has not attacked anyone,” said Pandav.
He added that this adult male elephant, approximately around 50 years of age, “roams around solitary and does not stay with the herd.”
The forest officials came across the jumbo while identifying elephants that need to be radio-collared ahead of Maha Kumbh 2021. The elephant is a suspected ‘problem elephant’ which ventures alone in the forests.
“There are many bulls (male elephants) roaming in the area and he is one of them. It would be difficult to radio-collar this elephant given its size as it is one of the largest elephants we have come across. We are still identifying problematic elephants which venture into human habitations that will be radio-collared for monitoring to ensure they don’t come into conflict with pilgrims during Maha Kumbh 2021. We have roughly identified around nine bulls who frequently use that area (where Maha Kumbh will take place),” added Pandav.
The researchers are trying to find out where the elephants spend time during the day so that a plan on tranquilising and radio-collaring them can be formulated. The elephants usually come out at night, when radio-collaring the animal is difficult.
Dr Aditi Sharma, senior veterinarian of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve, said, “This elephant is most likely a full-grown nine feet animal. Usually, dominant male elephants found in this region grow eight feet, but this particular elephant is most likely around nine feet given its physical features.”
Uttarakhand forest department authorities with the WII are working on radio-collaring some of the elephants prone to straying into human habitations in a bid to prevent attacks on pilgrims, who are expected to congregate in Haridwar for the next year’s Mahakumbh.
The state government is waiting for approval from the Central government before putting into motion the radio collar exercise. State forest department officials said elephants usually venture into areas, where tents are set up for the Mahakumbh pilgrims.
Tedhipuliya and Shyampur regions, near Haridwar, are found to be some of the areas most prone to man-elephant conflict, forest officials said.
“Those elephants, which stray into human habitations, will be radio-collared. We’ll get a sense of their movement pattern after they’re radio-collared and work out a mechanism to prevent man-animal conflicts,” Sharma said.
The forest officials had started their preparations since last November, when man-animal conflict hotspots were identified and geo-tagged.