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State to have �lifetime� elephant care centre

By RITURAJ BORTHAKUR
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GUWAHATI, Nov 16 - The State forest department has decided to set up a �lifetime� elephant care centre and develop a protocol for capture of wild elephants in future.

The decision came in the backdrop of the recent capture of a wild jumbo that had killed five people in Goalpara district. Though the captured elephant was taken to Orang National Park, the department is still not sure if it will be able to tame it or if the animal can be released in the wild again.

While the forest department contemplated on translocating the captured elephant to forests near Lumding, locals there protested the move, prompting the change of plan.

�We are talking to other states how to handle and tame this elephant. Views of experts are being taken. States like Karnataka and West Bengal have been taming wild elephants. We are still not sure what to do... and how long can we keep the elephant in captivity,� Head of Forest Force and Principal Chief Conservator Forest AM Singh told The Assam Tribune, after a meeting of the expert committee constituted to study and capture and Goalpara elephant.

The forest department has asked the committee to work on the lifetime care centre proposal and prepare a framework. The centre will not be in a protected area and it will be exclusively for captured wild elephants.

�The committee will prepare the project report, detailing the land and infrastructure required and the financial implication,� Singh said.

The committee headed by CCF Akashdeep Baruah has been also asked to prepare within three weeks a protocol or a standard operating procedure (SOP) for capture of wild elephants in future.

Sources said in the recent capture of the Goalpara elephant, there were �multiple commands working� resulting in confusion and lack of clarity. There are also allegations of breach of certain norms during the operation, which could have �boomeranged�.

�The protocol will have everything required for the field intervention which will be done in a smooth and scientific manner. It will lay down the SOP... who will be involved, who will do the darting, the medication, precaution to be taken, etc.,� Singh said.

Meanwhile, the forest department has asked all the circle CCFs to constitute enforcement teams which will be on the job from October to March � the post-monsoon season when man-elephant conflict peaks.

Local people and battalion personnel besides officials will be involved in the teams to deal with any situation that may arise in their areas, besides creating awareness.

Man-elephant conflict has been rising in the State, with over 57 elephant casualties and 62 civilian deaths this year alone. According to estimates, the population of elephants in Assam is around 5,700 and they face a serious challenge now due to dwindling forest cover. Assam had a tradition of capturing elephants, but commercial capture of elephants in the State had stopped after 1987.

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State to have �lifetime� elephant care centre

GUWAHATI, Nov 16 - The State forest department has decided to set up a �lifetime� elephant care centre and develop a protocol for capture of wild elephants in future.

The decision came in the backdrop of the recent capture of a wild jumbo that had killed five people in Goalpara district. Though the captured elephant was taken to Orang National Park, the department is still not sure if it will be able to tame it or if the animal can be released in the wild again.

While the forest department contemplated on translocating the captured elephant to forests near Lumding, locals there protested the move, prompting the change of plan.

�We are talking to other states how to handle and tame this elephant. Views of experts are being taken. States like Karnataka and West Bengal have been taming wild elephants. We are still not sure what to do... and how long can we keep the elephant in captivity,� Head of Forest Force and Principal Chief Conservator Forest AM Singh told The Assam Tribune, after a meeting of the expert committee constituted to study and capture and Goalpara elephant.

The forest department has asked the committee to work on the lifetime care centre proposal and prepare a framework. The centre will not be in a protected area and it will be exclusively for captured wild elephants.

�The committee will prepare the project report, detailing the land and infrastructure required and the financial implication,� Singh said.

The committee headed by CCF Akashdeep Baruah has been also asked to prepare within three weeks a protocol or a standard operating procedure (SOP) for capture of wild elephants in future.

Sources said in the recent capture of the Goalpara elephant, there were �multiple commands working� resulting in confusion and lack of clarity. There are also allegations of breach of certain norms during the operation, which could have �boomeranged�.

�The protocol will have everything required for the field intervention which will be done in a smooth and scientific manner. It will lay down the SOP... who will be involved, who will do the darting, the medication, precaution to be taken, etc.,� Singh said.

Meanwhile, the forest department has asked all the circle CCFs to constitute enforcement teams which will be on the job from October to March � the post-monsoon season when man-elephant conflict peaks.

Local people and battalion personnel besides officials will be involved in the teams to deal with any situation that may arise in their areas, besides creating awareness.

Man-elephant conflict has been rising in the State, with over 57 elephant casualties and 62 civilian deaths this year alone. According to estimates, the population of elephants in Assam is around 5,700 and they face a serious challenge now due to dwindling forest cover. Assam had a tradition of capturing elephants, but commercial capture of elephants in the State had stopped after 1987.

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