Larger mammals like elephants that require extensive habitats for survival are one of the most affected ones due to the land use change. Mainly due to loss, destruction and fragmentation of natural ecosystem to cater to the need of growing economy and increasing human population are restricting their movements. This has been enhancing human-elephant conflict in many parts of the country. Thus, the harmonious relationship between elephants and people is gradually getting strained resulting in causalities on both the ends in extreme conditions.
Why care for elephants?
Elephants are the key-stone species
- Landscape Architect: While they move about, naturally clear the patches, preventing cover growth of certain plants allowing space for others to grow, this provides food for other herbivorous.
- Seed dispersal: Eating fruits, plants at one place and defecating at othe places.
- Nutrition: Animal dung; nutrition to plants and animals, breeding ground for insects.
- Water providers: In drought they access water by digging holes which benefits other wildlife. Their footprints act as vessel to collect water in rains, helping water for small creatures.
Thus maintenance of wildlife corridors is an essential element of managing landscape and an important tool to overcome the adverse effects of habitat fragmentation and loss for ensuring larger habitat availability, genetic exchange within and between the populations and minimizing human-elephant conflict.
What is Elephant Corridor?
Elephant Corridor are narrow strips of land that connects two large habitats. These narrow strips may lie, within the central of government agency, private estates, fellow or cultivated agricultural lands.
A total of 88 elephant corridors were identified as being currently in use in the country. Of these, 12 are in north-western India, 20 in central India, 14 in northern West Bengal, 22 in north-eastern India and 20 in southern India. Of the total, 77.3% of the corridors are being regularly used by elephants.
Settlements and the resulting biotic pressure in corridors are serious issues and throughout India, only 22.8% corridors are without any major settlements.
Function of corridors
- Enhanced immigration, which will support genetic flow, increase genetic diversity and enhance overall meta-population survival in connected patches.
- Provide opportunity to avoid predation.
- Accommodation of range shifts due to climate change.
- Provision of a fire escape function.
- Maintenance of ecological process connectivity.
What can be done?
Recently in response to a Public Interest Litigation, Supreme Court directed the Tamil Nadu government to seal or close down 39 hotels and resorts constructed on an “elephant corridor” in the Nilgiri Hills in violation of law.
Approaches to secure/protect corridors are:
- Private-purchase model: Directly purchase land – rehabilitate affected people and transfer land to state forest department for legal protection.
- Community based approach: Community owned land can be set aside for the protection of corridor on bilateral benefit sharing model, like tourism, forest produce etc.
- Government acquisitions: Government can acquire these strips for national interest and implement Art 48A of Directive Principles of State Policy. (safeguarding of forests and wildlife)
Public Securement Model: Protection of creating network of empowered local and stakeholders (youth, leader). These are engaged through public companies and spot interventions.