Jamshedpur, May 29: From 96 two years ago, the number of elephants at Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary has slipped to 28, according to the census conducted in April.
Jittery forest department officials said they would do a re-count as the elephants are returning to the sanctuary, 20 km from Jamshedpur. The latest census was conducted between April 23 and 26.
Unnerved by the result, particularly in the backdrop of the scandal over tigers having disappeared from sanctuaries in Rajasthan, the department is preparing for a re-count. There is also encouraging information that migrating herds are returning from the forests of Bengal and Orissa.
In normal circumstances, the census, conducted under the Elephant Project, is a biennial affair.
Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary range officer Arjun Baraik said the re-census is expected to begin later this week.
Sources said around 55 elephants had already returned to the sanctuary and around 17 more were spotted near the guesthouse at Pinderbera atop Dalma hill last week. Some calves had also been seen with the herd. This is a positive development as far as the re-census is concerned. The fresh census will give us an accurate idea about the number of elephants, a forester said.
Baraik, too, confirmed herds have been seen re-entering Dalma sanctuary. But the exact number can only be known after a re-census, he added.
The range officer said he would adopt the head-count method during the re-census. In this, the teams scan the forest and draw up a total on the basis of the number of animals sighted.
The report of the census conducted last month has already been submitted to senior forest department officials. The low count has worried the forest department and a decision has been taken to conduct a census for the second time, Baraik said.
He added that Dalma elephants tended to migrate to forests of neighbouring states as the area is small.
Elephants of Palamau wildlife sanctuary seldom migrate as the area is very large. The Dalma sanctuary, which is spread over 193.22 km, is small in comparison with other sanctuaries, including Palamau. So the elephants develop this habit of migrating, he explained.