//Captive elephants to sport microchips

Captive elephants to sport microchips

The implanted chip will help identify the animal

EASIER IDENTIFICATION: The Forest Department plans to implant microchips on all captive elephants of the State by March. — Photo: Vipinchandran

KOCHI: All captive elephants in the State will be sporting microchips from March, when a project mooted by the Forest Department in this regard gets going.

The department will soon buy 1,200 microchips to be implanted within the skin beneath the ear of the animal, said V. Gopinath, Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), on Wednesday. It is estimated that there are nearly 900 captive elephants in the State, the highest in any State.

"This is akin to the number plates being issued to vehicles. Each microchip will have a unique number given by the manufacturer. The implanted microchip will help identify the animal," he said.

Though details of the animal and the movement tracking system can be included in microchips, the present one is not equipped for it. The unit will have only the identification number, which can be read using a microchip reader, Mr. Gopinath said.

The unit that the department plans to implant in elephants costs Rs.280 a piece.

The department decided to restrict the use of the microchip as an identification system only there was no need to track the movement of captive elephants in the State. Originally, the scheme was initiated by the Central authorities for tracking the movement of elephants from one State to another and to keep a tab on the reported smuggling of elephants from the northeastern States and Assam.

Ownership certificates –The Forest Department is in the process of clearing the backlog of nearly 100 applications for ownership certificates of elephants. Elephant lovers and owners have long been demanding the issuance of the certificate, as it is the only valid document to prove the ownership of the animal.

Meanwhile, All Kerala Elephant Owners Association leaders complained that they were not "properly consulted" regarding the implantation of microchips. "Though the Association welcomes the proposal for implanting microchips, there will be less cooperation in the implementation stage if the owners and the Association are not properly consulted," said Association president T.N. Arunkumar.

For identifying an animal, the ownership certificate being issued is enough as it contains two photos of the animal and its identification marks. However, the Association is not against the implantation of the microchips, he said.