Alarming destruction of tiger, elephant habitats

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The significance of conserving Asiatic elephants and tigers were stressed at an international veterinary workshop on Asian elephants and tigers that began at Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (KVASU) headquarters at Pookode in the district on Monday. The four-day workshop, being organised by the Centre for Wildlife Studies under KVASU in association with the Department of Forests and Wildlife, aims at veterinary interventions such as general elephant and tiger health, diagnosis, medical and surgical management, measures to mitigate human-wildlife conflict and so on. Delivering a speech on global population status and conservation programme of Asian elephants and tigers, Meenakshi Nagendran, scientist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, said the key to conservation in India involved setting aside personal differences, engaging stakeholders, equipping the Forest Department staff, protecting the animals which strayed and, most importantly, collaboration between veterinarians and biologists. Dr. Meenakshi said that over the past 100 years, destruction of tiger and elephant habitat had been 90 per cent and 95 per cent respectively. However, India appeared to have a stronghold in terms of tigers. Ajay Desai, an elephant ecologist, said elephants had a strongly bonded social group and a defined home range and seasonal range. Speaking on ‘human wildlife conflict — a perspective on Asian elephants and tigers,’ he said: “They have a social dominance, hierarchies which control and regulate space. Therefore an elephant family without a home range is doomed.”

Need of research

Research should be conducted in each conflict situation and mitigation measures should be taken accordingly, Mr. Desai said, adding that bad management by forest personnel in one area could affect the other areas. The role of a veterinarian involved preventing zoonotic diseases, ensuring wildlife health, post-mortem investigation, tranquillisation and capture of animals when necessary and supporting mitigation strategies and research programmes, he added.

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