Identification of Elephant Corridors

  • Category
    Ecology and Environment
  • Published
    31st Mar, 2020

Despite ready list, Jharkhand to identify elephant corridors as the corridors had changed since their identification, they would need to be identified again.

Context

Context

Despite ready list, Jharkhand to identify elephant corridors as the corridors had changed since their identification, they would need to be identified again.

Background:

  • The Jharkhand government constituted a committee to identify elephant corridors in the state in January this year, despite such corridors having already been identified.
  • States are now supposed to just notify them under either the Wild Life (Protection) Act (WLPA), 1972, or the Environment Protection Act (EPA), 1986. 
  • The Chief Wildlife Warden of Jharkhand said the state’s forest department wasn't consulted before the corridors were identified.
  • As the corridors had changed since their identification, they would need to be identified again.
  • In 2018, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had ordered the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to look into the possibility of notifying elephant corridors as Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ) under EPA. 
  • In 2018, the 15th Steering Committee of Project Elephant asked elephant range states to either notify elephant corridors as ESZs under the EPA, or as Community Reserve or Conservation Reserve under the WLPA. 

Analysis

About:

  • Elephant corridors are narrow strips of land that connect two large habitats.
  • They are linear, narrow, natural habitat passages that allow elephants to move between secure habitats without being disturbed by humans
  • In many cases, these corridors are already under the control of a government agency and could include unutilized spaces in large commercial estates, and fallow or agricultural lands.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), constituted under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (amendment 2006), defines wildlife corridors as “inherent geographical linkages (through forests, river courses or other habitat attributes) which facilitate movement of tigers and other wild animals from one source area to another.”
  • The report (Wildlife Trust of India’s 2017 report, Right of Passage) has the officially accepted list of 108 identified elephant corridors in the country. “Seven corridors that were previously identified, were found to have been impaired in the last decade,” the report has said.  
  • Of the 108 corridors, 14 are in Jharkhand and none of them have been notified so far.
  • Right to Passagewas, however, approved by the forest department of Jharkhand, along with those of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka, Kerala, Meghalaya, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. 
  • Despite being a figure of traditional cultural reverence, recognised indeed as the National Heritage Animal, and given the strictest level of protection under the law, the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is in a lot of trouble in India today.
  • The crux of the problem is one that affects all wildlife in the country: land.
  • In 2018, the 15th Steering Committee of Project Elephant asked elephant range states to either notify elephant corridors as ESZs under the EPA, or as Community Reserve or Conservation Reserve under the WLPA. 

What is the need of elephant corridor?

  • Despite being a figure of traditional cultural reverence, recognised indeed as the National Heritage Animal, and given the strictest level of protection under the law, the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is in a lot of trouble in India today. The crux of the problem is one that affects all wildlife in the country: land.
  • Land degradation: As India’s human population has grown exponentially in the past several decades, so has its demand for resources. At its essence, that demand boils down to the requirement for more land – for agriculture to grow more food, for roads, for dams and mines and railways and housing. This demand for land has led to the degradation and fragmentation of the country’s forest cover.
  • Elephant needs vast areas to roam: browsing, foraging, moving from place to place in search of food and water with the changing seasons.
  • The more forest habitat is degraded, the farther an elephant herd has to roam in search of food and water.
  • As elephants are forced to range farther and farther afield, this brings them into conflict with humans.
  • And as humans encroach on forest areas, planting nutritious crops near forest lands, building homes and roads and railways, this invites conflict with elephants.
  • Human Elephant Conflictis a very serious issue in India today: over 400 humans are killed in encounters with elephants annually, and crops and property worth millions of rupees are damaged.

Why Elephants are crucial for humans?

  • 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.
  • Landscape architects: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.
  • Seed 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.

Conclusion:

To have elephants in isolated populations, unable to move freely through their home ranges, would therefore have a devastating effect on India’s natural heritage. Many animal species would suffer and the ecosystem balance of several wild habitats would be unalterably upset. It would also, of course, eventually lead to the local extinction of India’s National Heritage Animal, one of the wisest and most beloved species on the planet.

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