The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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North meets an elephantine need
- Bulls to travel south to correct sex ratio skewed by poachers

Lucknow, Feb. 12: Veerappan killed their beaus, now their Valentines are lumbering in from the far north.

Tuskers from the Himalayan foothills will be ferried to south India to give company to the lovelorn cows there as part of a drive to tackle the skewed sex ratio of elephants in the southern states.

This is the first time such large-scale shifting of elephants has been planned, S.S. Bisht, the director of Project Elephant, said.

Bisht said “Uttaranchal has agreed to send some of its bull elephants to the southern states to save the Asian elephant from extinction”.

The proposal to transfer males to the south was given final shape at a workshop of wildlife experts in Dehradun last week where managers of 25 sanctuaries and national parks discussed ways to check the dwindling elephant population because of selective killing of the males for their tusk. The workshop was organised by the Project Elephant. “We have agreed to try out the experiment of shifting spare males from the north to correct the sex imbalance in the elephant population of the southern districts,” Bisht said.

Bisht said the problem cannot be tackled unless indiscriminate killing of males for their ivory is stopped. “But the sex ratio has become so skewed in some south Indian states that special measures will have to be taken to restore the balance,” he added. “And Uttaranchal is in a position to spare its males.”

Statistics reveals how lopsided the elephant sex ratio is in the southern states. Whereas wildlife experts believe that ideally there should be one bull for four or five cows, there is only one bull for 100 cows in Kerala and one male for 75 females in Andhra Pradesh.

On the other hand, according to a 2002 survey, Uttaranchal has 1,391 elephants — 357 males, 658 females and 376 calves.

The sex ratio in the Jim Corbett National Park and the proposed Rajaji National Park of the new state works out to one male for two females.

Animal rights activist Iqbal Malik said there are less than 800 tuskers left in India. “This means semen distribution is low because there are only 800 inseminators and they are being killed all the time.”

He added that poaching for tusks — one of the prime targets of forest brigand Veerappan — had affected India the most. “This is because the Asian elephant is not like the African elephant. Only the males have tusks.”

Underlining the seriousness of the problem, Bisht said till 10 years ago, India had 5,000 tuskers (adult males) and that 10 per cent of the tusker population was being killed every year.

Wildlife experts feel that large-scale transfer of bulls from the Himalayan foothills would not only improve the sex ratio in south India but also spur the growth rate. Bisht said experts from South Africa were consulted before finalising the project.

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