NEW DELHI: An elephant census released by the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change on Saturday revealed an expansion in elephant areas, even while the jumbo population remained “stable” at 27,000. The report ‘Synchronised elephant population estimation India 2017′, released on World Elephant Day, estimates that the exact population of jumbos in the country is 27312, with Karnataka reporting the highest population at 6049, followed by Assam at 5719.
Though there has been a decline in overall elephant population from 29391-30711 in 2012, but it is only due to a difference in the counting method. “We have a healthy elephant population in India. There is no question of a decline. In fact, there may have been a slight increase,” said elephant expert and head of Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF) R Sukumar.
Experts termed the “expansion” trend as worrying because it could lead to an increase in human-animal conflicts. Jumbos have been reported for the first time in Manipur, Mizoram, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Andaman & Nicobar islands, indicating disturbance in the wild animals’ original areas or climate change impacts like temperature and precipitation modification.
“This expansion has been happening gradually over 30 years. It is worrying because it will be difficult to manage. The real challenge is that elephants are moving to other forest areas, which could increase the potential for conflicts with humans,” Sukaumar said, adding that the last mass translocation was reported from Tamil Nadu in 1983, following a major drought. Herds of elephant had moved to Andhra Pradesh, where the jumbo population had been absent for over two centuries.