Survey shows Kerala’s wildlife is safe and thriving

Elephants at Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Elephants at Periyar WLS. Photo: Himanshu Sarpotdar | Flickr

A wildlife survey carried out in the state in 2011, after a gap of nine years, has come out with some reassuring findings. Kerala’s wildlife population has largely stabilised while certain animal populations are even showing signs of growth.

The 2011 census data submitted to the Forest Department by the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), Peechi, estimates the elephant population of the state to be 7,490 while it was 6,939 in 2002. It also reveals that tuskers account for 30% of the total elephant population in the state, and that there are 2.1 females (cows) for every male (bull) elephant in Kerala while there is 1.5 sub-adult female for every single sub-adult male elephant. Density of elephants shows a marginal decline from 2.64 per square kilometre in 2002 to 2.18 square kilometre in 2011. “But this could be due to differences in methodologies in the census,” a wildlife expert said.

Decrease in poaching due to deterrence provided by stringent laws and heightened awareness among the general populace are cited as the main reasons for the healthy situation of the state’s wildlife population.

The survey was carried out jointly by the Forest Department, World Wildlife Fund ( WWF) India, KFIR and Periyar Foundation. More than 2,000 officials and over 600 volunteers from across the state took part in the three-day census which was held from May 18, 2011 and covered 15 species of animals. While the 2002 census had covered almost the entire forest area in the state, in 2011 the enumeration was confined to 50% of the forest area, and figures for the entire area were based on projections.

The other 14 animals covered in the survey are lion-tailed macaque, bonnet macaque, Nilgiri langur, common langur, gaur, sambar deer, spotted deer, barking deer, mouse deer, wild boar, Malabar giant squirrel, Indian porcupine, sloth bear and wild dog.