ELEPHANT CORRIDOR ISSUE
- August 27, 2018, 5:14 pm
Amar Nath Bhagat and Pawan Kumar have done what many train locomotive pilots often cannot — stop the train for as long as elephants take to cross the track. Such alert loco pilots help improve the image of the railways, particularly the NFR that has many elephant corridors
NFR’s tracks cut through 29 notified elephant corridors, many of them in the Doars region of northern Bengal, where train hits killed at least 30 elephants in five years till December 2017.
Elephant corridors are narrow strips of land that allow elephants to move from one habitat patch to another.
A wildlife corridor, habitat corridor, or green corridor is an area of habitat connecting wildlife populations separated by human activities or structures (such as roads, development, or logging).
This allows an exchange of individuals between populations, which may help prevent the negative effects of inbreeding and reduced genetic diversity (via genetic drift) that often occur within isolated populations. Corridors may also help facilitate the re-establishment of populations that have been reduced or eliminated due to random events (such as fires or disease).
WHY CARE FOR ELEPHANTS
- Elephants are a keystone species. Their nomadic behaviour – the daily and seasonal migrations they make through their home ranges – is immensely important to the environment.
- Elephants create clearings in the forest as they move about, preventing the overgrowth of certain plant species and allowing space for the regeneration of others, which in turn provide sustenance to other herbivorous animals.
- eed dispersal: Elephants eat plants, fruits and seeds, releasing the seeds when they defecate in other places as they travel. This allows for the distribution of various plant species, which benefits biodiversity.
- Nutrition: Elephant dung provides nourishment to plants and animals and acts as a breeding ground for insects.
- Water providers: In times of drought they access water by digging holes, which benefits other wildlife. Further, their large footprints collect water when it rains, benefitting smaller creatures.
- Food chain: Apex predators like tigers will sometimes hunt young elephants. Further, elephant carcasses provide food for other animals.
- The umbrella effect: By preserving a large area for elephants to roam freely, one provides a suitable habitat for many other animal and plant species of an ecosystem.
SECURING THE RIGHT OF PASSAGE –INDIAN SCENARIO
To secure a future for wild elephants it is essential that we ensure their uninterrupted movement between key habitats. And to do this, designated corridors must be legally secured and protected. This is what Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) has been working on through the Right of Passage project under its Wild Lands division for the last decade-and-a-half.
In 2005, WTI and our global partner the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), in collaboration with a team of researchers, officials and NGOs, identified 88 elephant corridors across India.
Corridors comprise the unprotected lands between fragments of protected areas. These areas are increasingly human dominated, resulting in high levels of human-wildlife conflict (destruction of crops, buildings and even human life).
Securing the corridors involves sensitising local communities to the option of voluntarily relocating outside the conflict zones to safer areas, with their own land and improved housing.
PROTECTION OF ELEPHANT CORRIDORS
Steps undertaken by the Government to protect the Elephant Corridors are given below:
(a) Financial and technical assistance is provided to 16 elephant range states under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme ‘Project Elephant’.
(b) Improvement of elephant habitat, including Elephant Reserves and Corridors
(c) Regular and extensive patrolling of forest areas and anti poaching measures by frontline filed staff of the State Forest Departments.
(d) Trainings and awareness camps are organised regularly for local people for conservation of elephants and other wildlife.
(e) Local communities are organised into Joint Forest Management Committees/Ecodevelopment Committees for protection of elephant habitat, including elephant corridors.
ELEPHANT CORRIDORS IN INDIA
- As per some estimates, India has 25,000-28,000 elephants, which is around 50 percent of the world's Asian elephant population.
- 26 Elephant Reserves spread over about 110,000 sq. km. forests in the northeast, central, north-west and south India.
- Of the 88 elephant corridors identified, 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.
- Increasing human population and their encroachment of elephant habitat have fragmented and degraded the available land. Because of its Dependence on the forest for fuel, timber, livestock grazing. As per TERI reports, man-animal can cause 10-15% loss of agricultural produce in Asia and Africa.
- The Conversion of natural forest into monoculture plantation of tea, eucalyptus, and exotic species proliferation such as Lantana and Parthenium have further affected the habitat severely.
- To swiftly address the man-animal conflict issue, West Bengal government has come up with Rapid Response Force (RRP) plan which is response team that would be equipped with forest official, personnel with animal rescue training and equipment, veterinary surgeons and a smart vehicle with rotating searchlights fitted atop it.
- Another initiative by WB government is Airavat (mythical war elephant and the pet of Lord Indra), dedicated to reducing man-elephant conflict.
- Radio collar and technological devices for real-time monitoring in Assam and west Bengal elephant corridors.
- In Jammu and Kashmir, around 400 conflict zones identified and 5 people were deployed in each to address the man-conflict issue.
Initiatives with neighbouring countries
- : In final stages of an agreement to allow free passage of elephants. 7 cross-border routes for the animals have been identified in the Tripura, Assam and Mizoram.
RECENT ISSUES WITH ELEPHANT CORRIDORS
- The Supreme Court directed the Tamil Nadu government to seal or close down within 48 hours 11 resorts and hotels constructed on the elephant corridor of Nilgiris in violation of law.
- The Ministry of Environment and Forests has asked the Forest Department to furnish measures being undertaken to secure three elephant corridors in the State as per the direction of the Supreme Court.
- The Supreme Court expressed that it is “extremely unfortunate” that several states have not responded to two communications sent by the Centre on the issue of elephant corridors to curb human-animal conflict and reduce animal fatalities.
- The apex court had earlier stressed on the need to have elephant corridors across the country to reduce animal fatalities due to accidents and other reasons and had asked the Centre to come out with some “workable solution” in this regard.