The number of elephants in north Bengal has touched 500 according to an ongoing survey; a three-fold jump from 150 five years ago. Since such a rapid rise means more man-animal conflicts, the state now wants to contain their population. Among measures being considered is the rather unusual step of giving birth control pills to wild female elephants.
Administering contraceptive pills is foremost among the “urgent steps” the state has asked the Union Government to take. How the state proposes to feed the pills in the wild, however, is a mystery. While relations between Kolkata and Delhi have never been cosy, in this matter it has full faith that the Centre will think of something. “We have to find a way to control the population growth of elephants. How it can be done is something the Union Government will have to decide. Giving contraceptive pills is just an idea at this stage,” says Ananta Ray, forest minister. “Maybe, during the mating season, we can mix the pills with salt that our forest staff daily put in the salt pits.” He has no idea if the pills could harm male, adolescent and infant pachyderms who also lick the salt at these pits.
If the state government’s idea seems strange, equally so are some advocated by conservationists. Renowned elephant expert Dhritiman Lahiri Choudhuri feels the ban on sending elephants abroad should be lifted . Another expert feels wild elephants need to be captured, domesticated and trained for carrying out chores, especially heavy-duty ones like those at construction sites. Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh will have the final word on the pill and other such trumpeted ideas.▪