Globally there are approximately 45,000 wild Asian elephants, of which more than 29,000 (Updated Census) are in India, mostly spread across 29 Elephant Reserves, covering 11 elephant landscapes in 14 states. India houses approximately 60% of the global Asian elephant population, and protecting them in this last stronghold is their only hope for survival.
Human population in India is growing exponentially, currently at 1.37 billion , according to the Worldometers. Linear developments, irrigation canals, transport infrastructure developments that cut through critical elephant habitat, and unsustainable use of land in many parts of India, are all causing habitat fragmentation, confining elephant populations to small islands of land. In addition, the threat from poaching for ivory has considerably depleted the number of tuskers, leading to a highly skewed sex ratio.
Megaherbivores such as elephants, are most affected by habitat fragmentation and its depletion, as it pushes elephants out of the forest to find food, leading to human-elephant- conflict and senseless loss of lives - both human and elephant. On an average 400-450 people are killed by elephants, and around 400 wild Asian elephants are killed each year in India, caused by electrocution, railway collisions and poisoning, pushing the species closer to extinction.
The Urgent Need for Elephant Corridors in Key Landscapes Across India:
Securing elephant habitats and restoring corridors that elephants have been traditionally using would alleviate HEC, and prevent unnecessary deaths. This is of particular importance now, as the number of corridors has gone up due to the unprecedented land fragmentation in the past decade. According to the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI)’s Right of Passage Report, in 2005 WTI had identified 88 key corridors. But by 2015, that number had risen to 101, confirming the reckless and unsustainable land management.
A corridor is defined as “linear landscape elements which facilitate accelerated movement across habitat patches”. These corridors are meant to increase landscape connectivity and facilitate movement of organisms between two fragments, thus minimizing the risk of inbreeding and extinction, increasing local and regional population persistence and facilitating colonisation (Doak and Mills, 1994; Fahrig and Merriam, 1994; Sjorgen, 1991; Simberloff, 1988). In the fragmented landscapes that typify most elephant habitats in Asia, corridors thus ensure that the nutritional, demographic and genetic needs are met.
This World Elephant Day (WED) please consider supporting VFAES collaborating with the Kerala Forest & Wildlife Department to expand a corridor that is currently just 500 meters wide, hardly enough for elephants to pass between forest patches safely. Happy World Elephants Day!! Please Click HERE to join our movement and help the endangered Asian elephants.