No measures taken by the expert committee for probing deaths of elephants

No measures taken by the expert committee for probing deaths of elephants
Highlights

Eight months have passed since the Karnataka forest department had constituted a technical expert committee for the probe of the deaths of elephants natural and unnatural within the stateAlthough the panel still has to hold its first meeting as the jumbos are continuing to die under several circumstances The latest among these fatalities is the heartbreaking case which took place at the Naga

BENGALURU: Eight months have passed since the Karnataka forest department had constituted a technical expert committee for the probe of the deaths of elephants (natural and unnatural) within the state.
Although the panel still has to hold its first meeting as the jumbos are continuing to die under several circumstances. The latest among these fatalities is the heart-breaking case which took place at the Nagarahole National Park, where an elephant died as it was choked to death after it was pinned to a railway fence.

The expert committee that has been constituted this year has not taken any measures towards the plight of wildlife. A copy of the official memorandum on the formation of a “technical committee of experts to investigate unnatural and natural deaths of elephants in the state”, dated to March 23, 2018, requests the committee members to suggest concrete measures for the prevention of elephant mortality in the state. The memorandum had been signed by the principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) who also set a deadline of two months (from April 1) for the submission of the report.

The committee was formed due to the deaths of several Asiatic elephants because of unnatural and natural causes such as, getting trapped in sludge and resulting in drowning, electrocution, train accidents, etc.

While Manoj Kumar, then chief conservator of forests (wildlife), Bengaluru, is the chairman of the committee, the other members are Dr AJT Johnsingh, advisor to ministry of environment, forest and climate change; Dr Arun Zakaria, assistant forest veterinary officer, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Wayanad; Dr Prayag, veterinary doctor; Dr Mujeeb, veterinary doctor, Nagarhole Tiger Reserve; Ajai Desai, Karnataka State Wildlife Board member; IISc professor Surendra Verma, and director or representative from the Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals, Bengaluru.MM Jaya, deputy conservator of forests, Madikeri wildlife division, is the committee’s member secretary.

“The well-intended state formed committee has remained on paper. It consists of experienced senior IFS officers, senior scientists, wildlife experts, veterinary experts, senior biologists who were supposed to meet and submit a report by May-end. But we haven’t met even once. The forest department has not moved a bit on the proceedings,” he said on condition of anonymity.

“On the other hand, the government is spending over Rs 200 crore of taxpayers’ money for fencing, which, in fact, appears to be counterproductive now, especially after what we saw at Nagarahole. The state government and forest department should convert good intentions into action. Otherwise, there will be committees after committees to probe deaths, which never meet in reality.”

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