As Karnataka government gears for tusker capture, who will address the elephant in the room?

A joint statement by two animal rights organisations states that the capture and relocation of wild elephants leads to deaths among them. It calls upon authorities to develop practices to mitigate the human–elephant conflict.


A press release by the Centre for Research on Animal Rights (CRAR) and the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) has demanded that the Karnataka government stop capturing wild elephants.

The FIAPO is an animal rights organisation that has led various campaigns, including banning the use of dolphins for commercial entertainment and establishment of the proposed mega-dairy in Andhra Pradesh.

The CRAR works on animal rights in India using research, litigation and policy support.

As per the statement released today, the demands follow the likelihood of the Karnataka Forest Department starting a fresh round of captures of 40–50 wild elephants as a purported solution to the human–elephant conflict in the Hassan–Kodagu region in the state.

The statement highlights ground reports stating that the department plans to capture 17 tuskers and send them to forest camps. In addition, an unknown number of female elephants are likely to be captured and translocated.

Section 11 of the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 1972 permits the hunting of wild animals in certain areas and under conditions, including when a wild animal becomes dangerous to human life. Elephants are listed under Schedule I species, the highest legal protection under the Act.

The CRAR and FIAPO statement points out that Karnataka captures the highest number of wild animals under Section 11 of the Act.

Consequences of capture

Highlighting the high prevalence of human–elephant conflict in Karnataka, the statement provides that Karnataka has the highest population of wild elephants at over 6,000.

As per data from the Forest, Ecology and Environment department of Karnataka, 148 people have died from elephant attacks in the state in the past five years.

Reportedly, around 70–80 wild elephants die in Karnataka every year. Most of the deaths are put down to natural causes, and post-mortem reports are seldom available, the statement adds.

The statement condemns capturing wild elephants as a solution to the human–elephant conflict and terms it “unscientific and ineffective”.

According to the statement, such capturing leads to the deaths of a high number of wild elephants in the state, with three elephants dying in 2023 during capture.

In addition, the statement flags that “botched captures” are not questioned, emboldening the state government to continue the capture of elephants with impunity.

The statement also highlights that as per several scientific studies, the strategy of capture and relocation does not work as elephants always return to their home range.

Bharati Ramachandran, head of the FIAPO, stated, “The use of capture is more a sensationalist smokescreen to appease the general public, and in effect, does not ensure peaceful coexistence.

Commercial encroachments over forest lands, especially elephant corridors, are the main driver of human-elephant conflict. Elephant reserves must be recognised as legally protected areas, like tiger reserves.

Even after 10 years since the 2013 High Court Order, the government has failed to declare notified forest areas within elephant corridors as reserve forests under Section 17 of the Karnataka Forest Act.”

In October 2013, the Karnataka High Court placed the districts of Hassan–Kodagu in the ‘Elephant–Human Coexistence Zone’. The high court also laid out a series of recommendations to ensure that elephant corridors and human interests are both protected in a balanced manner.

We also need to undo the damage caused by unrestricted encroachments by removing them from critical elephant corridors and habitats. This can only be achieved through strong political will to ensure protection of elephants and humans,” Bharati said.

Demands for the government

The statement lays down three main categories of demands for the state government to implement.

Firstly, according to the statement, guidelines must be framed to regulate the “exceptional” power under Section 11 of the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2022.

The statement points out that while Section 9 of the Act prohibits hunting, Section 11 provides for a rare exception by allowing the chief wildlife warden to issue a capture Order, which should be exercised rarely and with a scientific temper.

Therefore, the statement opines that the power under Section 11 of the Act must be delegated to an expert body, consisting of scientists, ecologists, forest officers, lawyers and members of civil society.

The expert body, along with the chief wildlife warden, must ensure a recorded scientific approach, with complete and assured independence, to decide on whether the elephant needs to be captured for collaring, relocation or continued captivity, the statement adds.

The statement also advocates for detailed guidelines to ensure that every decision to capture is taken sparingly and with caution.

Secondly, the statement asks the state government to protect human and non-human interests in equal measures by reconciling all policies for the scientific management of conflict.

In particular, zonal distinctions of land— where elephants can and cannot be— should be discarded for a “permanent co-existence”.

The statement flags the urgent need for a reversal of encroachments from constructions linked to eco-tourism and plantation-based commercial farming. It also emphasises the need to protect elephant–human interspersing landscapes such as forested habitats that are used by both people and elephants.

Thirdly, the statement demands developing best practices to mitigate human–elephant conflicts, such as early message warning systems, thermal drones and radio-collaring implemented in the towns of Valparai and Gudalur in Tamil Nadu.

The statement stresses the need for the state government’s collaboration with scientists, elephant experts and civil society to test and develop best practice models to ensure “coexistence” with elephants in Karnataka.

The Leaflet