In a first, states in eastern and northeast India, including West Bengal, will carry out a synchronised elephant census beginning on March 27, by deploying direct and indirect counting methods.
The training sessions for estimation of jumbo numbers in north Bengal began in four locations on Tuesday, said State Chief Wildlife Warden, Pradeep Vyas.
"This is the first time that four zones (north, south, east and north-eastern zone) have been demarcated to count elephants. In the all-India synchronised elephant census, the dates for northeast zone are March 27 to March 29. North Bengal is included in the northeast zone for the regional census," Vyas told IANS on Tuesday.
Vyas said the simultaneous approach will eliminate duplication in counting.
"Earlier, each state used to conduct their own census. So, elephant populations often used to get counted twice or there was under-estimation," Vyas added.
Apart from direct sighting, forest officials and experts will deploy dung-decay assessment as well for accuracy.
Dung-decay method relies on estimating the pachyderm population size by counting dung piles and understanding how often elephants defecate and how fast dung piles decay.
"In northeast zone, north Bengal, Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura are included. In the second week of April, first phase of census in South Bengal will begin. For that, the training sessions are on March 24. South Bengal is part of the east zone comprising Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh," Vyas said.
Although West Bengal has only two per cent of India's elephant population, they are responsible for over 20 per cent of human deaths in the country, officials said.
The synchronised estimation will help in shedding light on demography and migration patterns.
According to data for 2012 with the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, wild elephants in Bengal numbered 647.