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Rashmi Rekha Das

The Forest Department has come up with a new way to carry out elephant census in the state. It will also conduct DNA profiling of elephants as part of the elephant census 2022.

With the new approach, the department can trace the number of elephants roaming in a particular area. The state government has aimed at implementing the new approach soon.

According to sources, the department has not carried out elephant and tiger census since 2017. There has been a huge decline in the jumbo population in the state and perhaps the authorities are scared that the truth will be exposed.

Going by the census data of forest department, Odisha had 1,976 elephants in 2017. However, questions were raised about accuracy of the elephant figure. Thus the state government has decided to do the census of both tiger and elephant this year.  And, the government will adopt DNA profiling way to get the accurate figure of elephants and tigers residing in the state. College of Veterinary Science & Animal Husbandry of Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology has introduced this system.

In the past, the methods for elephant census were not scientific. They were more of a headcount than an actual census. 

Sources said special kits will be used for the DNA profiling. DNA will be done by collecting stool and skeleton of dead elephants. So far, the concerned department has collected stool of 40 elephants of which DNA profiling of eight elephants has been completed.

Most of the time, Jharkhand elephants stray into Odisha and vice versa for which census gets affected. However, accurate figure of elephants will be found out after DNA profiling will be conducted by collecting stool, said veterinary doctor Niranjan Sahu.

In last five years, Odisha has witnessed death of many elephants. Of late, eight elephants have died in the state of which two from Sambalpur, four from Athagarh Forest Range and one from Satakosia Sanctuary. 

Forest department has been accused of hiding actual number of elephant death. Meanwhile, High Court has sought a report from the department in this connection. After the state government will adopt the new strategy to conduct elephant census, truth will be out.

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