Tagging Kerala’s tame elephants

May 22nd, 2008 - 9:28 am ICT by admin  

Kozhikode (Kerala), May 22 (IANS) All tame elephants in Kerala will soon come to be identified by a 10-digit number, thanks to an electronic tag that is expected to carry information on these gentle giants that also have their moments of fury. The close surveillance of elephants is expected to bring down incidents of elephant fury in Kerala where the animals are often used for ritualistic splendour during festivals.

The programme to implant microchips with a unique identification number on all pachyderms in the state has entered its last phase. There are around 800 captive elephants in Kerala.

“The identification number for each elephant is unique. The forest department will maintain detailed records of each of these elephants. The owner of the elephant will be issued a certificate after the implantation,” V.K. Sreevalsan, divisional forest officer of Kozhikode, told IANS.

The microchips are being implanted on the left side of the elephant’s neck. The drive began in October 2006.

“Once implanted, officials can identify the elephant using a chip reader. When we go near the elephant, the number will appear on the reader. Using the number we can immediately retrieve all the information regarding the animal.”

The forest department is collecting information on the cycles of ‘must’ (an aggressive sexual cycle among he-elephants), various measures of the elephant, age, ownership and details about its health.

Kerala has witnessed a number of fatal incidents involving elephants. It is said that these incidents occur as a result of ill treatment and lack of proper care of animals.

“If an elephant due for ‘must’ is paraded at a festival we can find this out from the implant. We will also be able to find out whether the elephant is fit or unfit to take part in such programmes,” he added.

The microchip implantation is being done at camps organised in each district in the state under the supervision of a team of veterinarians.

“At these camps we also check elephants’ health and scrutinise various registers that need to be kept by elephant owners. This gives us a good idea whether the animal is getting adequate care,” he said.

The government has set a deadline of June 30 after which elephants without the microchip would not be allowed in public places. The implant programme will also enable the forest department to get the census of domesticated elephants in the state.

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