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Bandipur Reserve has 1,116 elephants, highest in State

Karnataka’s wild elephant population rises to 6,395 from 6,049 in 2017; Nagarahole 831

Mysore/Mysuru: After achieving the highly sought-after position of second place in the national rankings of the All India Tiger Estimation Report-2022, the Bandipur Tiger Reserve has now emerged as the leading Reserve in the Asian Elephant Population Estimation for Karnataka-2023, boasting a population of 1,116 elephants.

The All India Tiger Estimation Report-2022 has elevated both the Bandipur and Nagarahole Tiger Reserves to premier status among the 53 Tiger Reserves across the country, showcasing a noteworthy increase in the population of these majestic felines. As per the census, Bandipur has successfully secured the second position nationwide, while Nagarahole claims the third position.

In the realm of elephant census, the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve has achieved the second position in Karnataka, following closely behind Bandipur with a count of 831 wild elephants. The elephant count in Karnataka has risen to 6,395 this year, exhibiting growth from 6,049 in 2017, according to the elephant census report released by the State’s Forest Department. The report was officially released in Bengaluru yesterday by Forest and Environment Minister Eshwar Khandre.

Previously, the projected count was 5,740 in 2010, reaching 6,072 in 2012 before a decline in 2017. Typically conducted every five years at the national level, the last comprehensive elephant population estimation was carried out in 2017.

In 2022, there was an attempt to integrate it into the All India Tiger Estimation. However, this methodology did not incorporate the sample block count and population structure assessment.

Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu took the initiative and conducted synchronised elephant population estimations from May 17 to 19 in 2023, employing both direct and indirect methodologies. A parallel exercise was also executed in Andhra Pradesh on the same dates.

The Elephant Population estimation exercise in Karnataka was conducted by the Karnataka Forest Department, with technical support provided by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), under the guidance of ecologist Prof. Raman Sukumar.

The estimation process encompassed direct count, dung count and waterhole count methods across 32 Forest Divisions, of which 23 reported elephant sightings during the exercise. Approximately 3,400 Forest personnel were involved in the elephant count across an area spanning approximately 6,104 square kilometres.

The survey was done in 6,104 sq. km area, out of the 18,975 sq. km area which is present in these 23 Divisions, as the area is frequently used by the elephants.

Out of the total estimated count of 6,395 elephants, approximately 161 were identified within private lands, including coffee estates, which pose unique conservation challenges.

The report suggests that while these private lands could serve as additional elephant habitats, they could also present obstacles to conservation efforts and harmonious coexistence between humans and wildlife.

Regarding the reasons behind the increase in elephant numbers, Prof. Raman Sukumar explained that during the 2017 elephant estimation in Karnataka, many elephants migrated to Kerala due to dry conditions. In the 2023 estimation, improved conditions in Karnataka might have prompted several elephants to return to their native habitat.

Additionally, the 2023 estimation encompassed elephant concentrations within coffee plantations in Hassan and Kodagu, contributing to the rise in numbers.

Conservation efforts pay off

The Bandipur Tiger Reserve has achieved several achievements in the protected area for all wild animals, particularly tigers and elephants, all made possible through the collaboration of our community and the people of the forest villages. The increase in the number of tigers and elephants is due to the systematic conservation of forest resources.

—Dr. P. Ramesh Kumar, Director, Bandipur Tiger Reserve


Forest DivisionElephant NumberBandipur Tiger Reserve1,116Nagarahole Tiger Reserve831MM Hills Wildlife Sanctuary706BRT Tiger Reserve619Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary236Madikeri Territorial Division214Madikeri Wildlife Division113Mysuru Territorial Division59Virajpet Division58

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