Elephant Corridors and Reserves in India UPSC

Context

  • World Elephant Day is celebrated on 12th August every year to spread awareness for the conservation and protection of the largest mammal on land.
  • The day was launched in 2012 to bring attention to the urgent plight of Asian and African elephants.
  • They play a key role as a “Keystone Species” in the forest ecosystem.

Asian Elephants: There are three subspecies of Asian elephants which are the Indian, Sumatran, and Sri Lankan.

  • Global Population: Estimated 20,000 to 40,000.
  • The Indian subspecies has the widest range and accounts for the majority of the remaining elephants on the continent.
    • There are around 28,000 elephants in India with around 25% of them in Karnataka.
    • IUCN Red List Status: Endangered.
    • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I.
    • CMS-Schedule I

African Elephants: There are two subspecies of African elephants, the Savanna (or bush) elephant, and the Forest elephant.

  • Global Population:Around 4,00,000.
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable.
  • Earlier in July 2020,Botswana (Africa) witnessed the death of hundreds of elephants.

Project Elephant

  • Tiger faces threat of extinction, whereas the elephant faces threat of attrition.
  • The elephant numbers have not increased or decreased drastically but there is an increasing pressure on the elephant habitats.
  • Project Elephant was launched in 1992.
  • It is a centrally sponsored scheme.

Objectives:

  1. to assist states having populations of wild elephants and to ensure long term survival of identified viable populations of elephants in their natural habitats
  2. addressing man-animal conflict.
  3. Developing scientific and planned management measures for the conservation of elephants.
  4. Protecting the elephants from poachers, preventing illegal ivory trade, and other unnatural causes of death

Elephant Corridor

  • An elephant corridor is defined as a stretch/narrow strips 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. 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.

Mitigation

  • 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

Objectives

  • To measure the levels and trends in illegal poaching and ensure changes in the trends for elephant protection. 
  • To determine the factors responsible for such changes, and to assess the impact of decisions by the conference of parties to CITES.

MIKE sites & MIKE Sites in India

  • There are around 50 MIKE sites across Africa.
  • There are currently 28 sites participating in the MIKE program in Asia, distributed across 13 countries
  • India has 10 MIKE sites

MIKE Sites in India

  1. Chirang-Ripu Elephant Reserve
  2. Dihing Patkai Elephant Reserve
  3. Eastern Dooars Elephant Reserve
  4. Deomali Elephant Reserve
  5. Garo Hills Elephant Reserve
  6. Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve
  7. Shivalik Elephant Reserve
  8. Mysore Elephant Reserve
  9. Nilgiri Elephant Reserve
  10. Wayanad Elephant Reserve

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 2010under 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 reportin August that year, called GajahSecuring the Future for Elephants in India.
  • The ETF was headed by a wildlife historian and political analyst, Dr. Mahesh Rangarajan. And the other members included were conservation and animal welfare activists, elephant biologists, and a veterinarian.
  • 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.

List of Elephant Reserves In India

  • As notified by the government, there are around 32 elephant Reserves in India.
  • India’s first elephant reserve was created in Jharkhand in 2001 under Project Elephant. Spread over 4,529 square kilometers area, the Singhbhum Elephant Reserve in Kolhan division, which comprises three districts –east Singhbhum, west Singhbhum and Saraikela-Kharswan — has around 280 elephants, according to the 2017 elephant census.

List of Elephant Reserves of India

Elephant RangeLocationElephant Reserve
East-Central landscape (South-West Bengal-Jharkhand-OrissaWest BengalMayurjharna ER
JharkhandSinghbhum ER
OrissaMahanadi ER

Sambalpur ER

Baitami ER

South Orissa ER

ChhattisgarhLemru ER

Badalkhol-Tamorpingla ER

Kameng-Sonitpur Landscape (Arunachal- Assam) TotalArunachal PradeshKameng ER
AssamSonitpur ER
Eastern-South Bank Landscape (Assam- Arunachal Pradesh)AssamDihing-Patkai ER
Arunachal PradeshSouth Arunachal Pradesh ER
Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong-Intanki Landscape (Assam- Nagaland)AssamKaziranga-Karbi Anglong ER

Dhansiri-Lungding ER

NagalandIntanki ER
North Bengal-Greater Manas Landscape (Assam-West Bengal)AssamChirang-Ripu ER
West BengalEastern Doars ER
Meghalaya LandscapeMeghalayaGaro Hills ER

Khasi Hills ER

Brahmagiri-Nilgiri-Eastern Ghat Landscape (Karnataka- Kerala-Tamilnadu-Andhra)KarnatakaMysore ER
KeralaWayanad ER
Tamil NaduNilgiri ER
Andhra PradeshRayala ER
KeralaNilambur ER
Tamil NaduCoimbatore ER
Anamalai-Nellianpathy-High Range Landscape (Tamil Nadu-Kerala)Tamil NaduAnamalai ER
KeralaAnamudi ER
Periyar-Agasthymalai Landscape (Kerala-Tamilnadu)KeralaPeriyar ER
Tamil NaduSrivilliputhur ER
North-Western Landscape (Uttarakhand-Uttar Pradesh)UttarakhandShivalik ER
Uttar PradeshUttar Pradesh ER

Elephant Census

  • Elephant census, is conducted once in 5 years under the aegis of Project elephant.

Census-2017

  • According to the revised state-wise wild elephant population estimate based on the 2017 census, jumbo population across the country stood at 29,964 against 29,576 recorded as the mean figure in 2012.
  • South India had the highest number of wild elephants – 14,612.
  • Among the south Indian states, Karnataka leads the table with 6,049 elephants followed by Kerala. 
  • With 60 % of the Asian elephant population, India is home to a total of 27,312 free-ranging megaherbivores.
  • According to the report released by Union Environment Minister, elephants — India’s heritage animal — are present in over 22 states and a union territory (Andaman and Nicobar Islands).

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