Elephant Population Estimates.

August 14, 2023


The recently released Elephant Population Estimates conducted jointly by the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala reveal varying trends in elephant populations. While Karnataka and Tamil Nadu witnessed slight increases in elephant numbers between 2017 and 2023, Kerala experienced a significant decline. The population in Karnataka rose from 6,049 to 6,395, in Tamil Nadu it increased from 2,761 to 2,961, while Kerala’s population dropped from 9,026 to 4,306. Experts attribute this variation to migration and environmental factors. The overall elephant count for all three states combined in 2023 was 13,662, down from 17,836 in 2017. Elephant deaths were largely among young individuals due to diseases like elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus.

Why did the elephant populations in Kerala decline sharply?

The population drop in Kerala can be attributed to migration patterns influenced by factors like drought and water availability. During a drought in 2016, elephants might have migrated to Kerala for water, causing a temporary spike in numbers. As conditions improved, they returned to their original habitats.

What methods were used to estimate elephant numbers in Kerala? Kerala employed block count and dung count methods. The former estimated around 1,920 elephants, while the latter counted 2,386 individuals. These methods aim for more accurate estimates compared to previous techniques.

Why did elephant deaths occur mainly among young individuals? The deaths among younger elephants were caused by elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus, a common ailment in the wild. This highlights the vulnerability of younger elephants to diseases.

How has the male-female ratio of elephant populations changed over time? The male-female ratio of elephant populations has improved over the years, becoming more balanced. This contrasts with the skewed ratios seen in the past, which were a consequence of poaching in the 1980-90s.

What challenges are elephants facing in terms of habitat and resources? Elephants are dealing with food scarcity due to invasive species like Lantana camara. Additionally, human-elephant conflicts are escalating as elephants venture into human settlements in search of food. Landscape-scale planning and removing invasive species are recommended strategies.

How are authorities addressing human-elephant conflicts and habitat fragmentation? To address human-elephant conflicts (HEC), artificial intelligence and rapid response teams are being employed. Also, measures are being taken to increase food and water availability for elephants. Climate change impacts on habitat and behavioral patterns of elephants are noted, calling for site-specific actions.

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