Two radio collars for elephants in south Bengal forests are lying idle with the state forest department for 18 months.
The GPS-enabled collars were supposed to track the real-time location and movement of elephant herds, which could have reduced human-animal conflict, said a researcher associated with the project.
While several elephants in north Bengal have been tagged with such collars over the past few years, south Bengal has had none.
Foresters said the project had different targets for north and south.
In the forests of the north, the collars are put on matriarchs. But in the south — forests of Bankura, Purulia, Jhargram, Paschim Medinipur and the surrounding areas — the officials are targeting solitary males.
“Solitary male elephants who are not part of any herd are behind a majority of man-wild conflicts. We have two collars. We have identified over 10 in the south. The exercise will be meaningful only if we tag all of them,” said Debal Ray, the chief wildlife warden of Bengal.
The department was in the process of procuring more collars, he added.
But waiting for more devices is not the only reason behind the delay, said a section of forest officials.
Herds from Jharkhand’s Dalma range stray into villages in the south Bengal districts of Bankura, Paschim Medinipur and Jhargram every year, destroying crops and occasionally killing humans.
“Previous collaring exercises in north Bengal have shown that loners are behind a majority of the conflicts,” said Aritra Kshettry, an elephant ecologist who has been part of such exercises in north Bengal and a consultant with GIZ, a German institute that has provided the collars.
The project to tag elephants has been very successful in north Bengal, said forest officials and researchers.
The Asian Nature Conservation Foundation, which functions out of the campus of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, had partnered with the West Bengal forest department in the collaring project in north Bengal that started way back in 2000.