Elephant Census to be held in April-May 2017

GPS to be used for next year’s elephant census

  • Global Positioning System (GPS) will be used for the first time to count and map elephants in the pachyderm census to be held in April-May 2017.
  • Forest officials and researchers will also use the first official line transect method as well as the dung decay rate assessment.


  • Existing census methods — direct and indirect sightings and water-hole study — will also be employed.
  • For the first time, a country-wide map of elephant distribution would be prepared.
  • Maps will be prepared by research institutions and forest departments of all states. Beat-wise maps showing low- and high-population density areas will be prepared using GIS to demarcate block boundaries
  • The decision to use GPS was taken at a recent meeting of Project Elephant attended by experts and forest officials in New Delhi

About Elephant census

  • The Southern region of the country has the largest concentration of elephants, especially across the Western Ghats that is spread across all Southern states except Andhra Pradesh.
  • Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have nearly 40 per cent of the country’s jumbo population with more than 12,000 elephants. The North-eastern region has more than 9,000 elephants, Eastern region has more than 3,500 elephants while the Northern region has around 1,700 elephants.
  • The population estimation of pachyderms happens every five years. As per the last study of 2012, the population of elephants is estimated to be between 29,000 and 30,711. Besides these wild elephants, around 3,500 elephants are in captivity.
  • The methodology used to estimate population of elephants is different from the one used to count tigers. While the forest departments and scientists use camera traps to capture images of individual tigers and extrapolate the population estimate, this is not possible in the case of elephants as they do not bear distinct individual physical features such as the stripes of a tiger.
  • Ministry officials, chief wildlife wardens of states and independent scientists have decided to use a combination of direct and indirect methods.
  • In the census officials will be using the dung decay rate method, line transect method and the waterhole count method. Elephants move in herds and their territorial range is vast as they move from one state to another. With the help of elephant dung and its size we are able to assess their path and the probable size of their herd
  • The other methods are direct methods wherein individual elephants are counted, while walking in a straight line, fixed block and while sitting at a vantage point,
  • Elephants defecate 14-17 times a day. The decay rate of elephant dung is calculated along with deposition rate and their density. This gives an idea about their density and these values are used in a formula to arrive at an estimated number,
  • Since the dung decay rate is an indrect method, it is does not give any idea of individuals and herds.
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