Elephant corridors to be restored in South Bengal
- The fragmented and patchy forests in south Bengal have become one of the hotspots of human-elephant conflict in India.
- It has resulted in the loss of lives of humans as well as pachyderms.
- Between 2014 and 2019, as many as 2,381 human deaths were recorded in elephant attacks across the country, of which 403 (over 16%) were reported from West Bengal.
- The State, however, is home to less than 3% of the elephant population and records a high death count of pachyderms in conflicts.
- The degradation and fragmentation of forests have led to disruption in the traditional migration routes of the elephant herds in the region.
- An elephant corridor is defined as a stretch/narrow strip of forested (or otherwise) land that connects larger habitats with elephant populations and forms a conduit for animal movement between the habitats.
- This movement helps enhance species survival and birth rate.
- There are 88 identified elephant corridors in India.
- Out of the total of 88 corridors
- 20 are in south India,
- 12 in north-western India,
- 20 in central India,
- 14 in northern West Bengal and,
- 22 in north-eastern India.
Threats to Elephant Corridors
- Habitat loss leading to fragmentation and destruction caused by developmental activities like construction of buildings, roads, railways, holiday resorts, and fixing solar energized electric fencing, etc.
- Coal mining and iron ore mining is the two ""single biggest threats"" to elephant corridors in central India.
- Orissa, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh are mineral-rich states, but also have the highest number of elephant corridors in the country, which makes them known for elephant-man conflicts.
- There is also a serious poaching problem, as elephant ivory from the tusks is extremely valuable.
- Elephants need extensive grazing grounds and most reserves cannot accommodate them.
- If protected areas are not large enough, elephants may search for food elsewhere.
- This often results in conflicts with humans, due to elephants raiding or destroying crops.
- The fusion of the corridors with nearby protected areas wherever feasible; in other cases, declaration as Ecologically Sensitive Areas or conservation reserves to grant protection.
- During the process of securing a corridor, monitoring for animal movement has to be carried out; depending on the need, habitat restoration work shall also be done.
- Securing the corridors involves sensitizing local communities to the option of voluntarily relocation outside the conflict zones to safer areas.
- Preventing further fragmentation of the continuous forest habitat by encroachment from urban areas.
SC Judgement on Nilgiri Elephant Corridor
- The SC judgement dealt especially with the Nilgiri elephant corridor of Tamil Nadu.
- That corridor is the Sigur Plateau, with a width of 1.5 kilometres and length of 22 kilometres.
- It connects the Western and the Eastern Ghats and sustains elephant and tiger populations and their genetic diversity.
- The Plateau has the Nilgiri Hills on its south-western side and the Moyar River Valley on its north-eastern side.
- This elephant corridor acts as an important link connecting the protected areas of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
- This migratory path is considered to be very crucial connecting several contiguous protected areas forming the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, the largest protected forest area in India.
- This reserve supports over 6,300 elephants.
- The Nilgiri Biosphere reserve, which includes Sigur Plateau and the Nilgiri Hills, is part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Initiatives for protecting elephants
- Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) Programme
- Mandated by COP resolution of CITES, MIKE program started in South Asia in the year 2003 with the following purpose:
- To provide the information needed for elephant range States to make appropriate management and enforcement decisions, and
- to build institutional capacity within the range States for the long-term management of their elephant populations
- India has 10 MIKE sites.
Haathi Mere Saathi
- Haathi Mere Saathi is a campaign launched by the Ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) in partnership with the wildlife trust of India (WTI).
- The campaign was launched at the ""Elephant- 8"" Ministerial meeting held in Delhi in 2011.
- The E-8 countries comprise India, Botswana, the Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Kenya, Srilanka, Tanzania, and Thailand.
- This public initiative was aimed at increasing awareness among people and developing friendship, companionship between people and elephants.
Elephant Task Force
- The Union government constituted an Elephant Task Force (ETF) in 2010 under the leadership of historian Mahesh Rangarajan to review the existing policy of elephant conservation in India and formulate future interventions.
- The task force came out with a comprehensive report in August that year, called Gajah: Securing the Future for Elephants in India.
- The focus of the Elephant Task Force was to bring pragmatic solutions for the conservation of elephants in the long-term.
- India has around 25000 - 29000 elephants in the wild.
- However, the tuskers (male)in India are as threatened as the Tigers as there are only around 1200 tusker elephants left in India.
- The Asian elephants are threatened by habitat degradation, man-elephant conflict, and poaching for the Ivory.
- This problem is more intense in India which has around 50% of the total population of the world's Asian elephants.
- Project Elephant was launched in 1992.
- It is a centrally sponsored scheme.
- To protect elephants, their habitat & corridors.
- To address issues of man-animal conflict.
- The welfare of captive elephants.
- The elephant census is conducted once in 5 years under the aegis of Project elephant.
- The direct elephant counting method is based on the sightings of elephants.
- In the indirect method, surveyors follow a dung decay formula for arriving at population estimation which is being used by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka at present.
- A variation of about 8% to 9% has been noticed between the two methods.
- Karnataka has the highest number of elephants (6,049), followed by Assam (5,719) and Kerala (5706).