Elephant corridors in India threatened
Mapping 101 vital elephant corridors across India, scientists suggest ways to ensure safe passage and mitigate man-elephant conflicts.
‘Right of Passage’
An 800-page study released in August 2017, authored by experts and published by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) in collaboration with Project Elephant and the U.K.-based NGO Elephant Family, identifies and records details pertaining to 101 elephant corridors across India.
Of these 101 corridors, 28 are located in south India, 25 in central India, 23 in northeastern India, 14 in northern West Bengal and 11 in northwestern India.
- The ground situation studied in 2005 and 2017 also indicates degradation of corridors: 21.8% of corridors are free of human settlements in 2017 compared with 22.8% in 2005, and 45.5% have 1-3 settlements in 2017 compared with 42% in 2005.
- “About eight corridors have been secured on the ground by State Forest Departments, MoEFCC (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change), WTI, and other conservation organisations.
- To increase awareness on elephant corridors, the team is planning ‘Gaj Yatras’ — parading life-size elephant models crafted by local artisans on road shows through corridors across 12 States where elephants range.
Two in every three elephant corridors in the country are now affected by agricultural activities, the study points out, adding that 58.4% corridors fall under settled cultivation and 10.9% under jhum (slash and burn) cultivation.
The study notes that almost 20% of the corridors urgently require an overpass for vehicles to facilitate the unhindered movement of elephants. In addition to railway tracks and highways, 11% of corridors have canals passing through them, and 12% are affected by mining and the extraction of boulders.
Wildlife corridor, habitat corridor, or green corridor
It 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).
“Elephant corridors are narrow strips of land that connect two large habitats,”
The main goal of implementing habitat corridors is to increase biodiversity. When areas of land are broken up by human interference, population numbers become unstable and many animal and plant species become endangered. By re-connecting the fragments, the population fluctuations can decrease dramatically. Corridors can contribute to three factors that stabilize a population:
- Colonization—animals are able to move and occupy new areas when food sources or other natural resources are lacking in their core habitat.
- Migration—species that relocate seasonally can do so more safely and effectively when it does not interfere with human development barriers.
- Interbreeding—animals can find new mates in neighboring regions so that genetic diversity can increase and thus have a positive impact on the overall population
Habitat corridors can be categorized according to their width.
- Regional – (>500m wide); connect major ecological gradients such as migratory pathways.
- Sub-regional – (>300m wide); connect larger vegetated landscape features such as ridgelines and valley floors.
- Local – (some <50m); connect remnant patches of gullies, wetlands, ridgelines, etc.