Updated: Dec 15, 2019
VFAES is proud to partner with the Kerala Forest Department to restore critical habitat corridors for wild elephants.
In the wild, Asian elephants spend their days roaming tropical forests, foraging for fruits, leaves, barks, and grasses. Females live in close-knit matrilineal groups, whereas males leave the family during adolescence to live solitary lives or form loose bachelor herds. Elephants call to one another using infrasonic rumbles that travel long distances through the ground, imperceptible to the human ear.
Unfortunately, human activities have interrupted their natural behavior—and are pushing the species to the brink of extinction. Agricultural and infrastructure developments have fragmented wild habitats, confining populations to small “islands” of isolated land. Elephants rely on inhabitable corridors to connect their patchwork kingdom, in order to travel safely in search of food or mates. These “corridors” are areas of habitat that connect elephant populations otherwise separated by human activities.
Securing habitat corridors is vital to protecting the genetic diversity, health, and long-term survival of Asian elephants.
With their land and resources dwindling, elephants often raid human crops, then face violent retaliation known as human-elephant conflict (HEC). On average, an estimated 400-450 people are killed by elephants every year in India. Around 400 wild Asian elephants are killed by railway collisions, electrocution, and poisoning. Corridors both provide safe passage to elephants and prevent inbreeding, which is especially important since ivory poaching has depleted male populations and led to a skewed sex ratio.
In 2015, the Wildlife Trust of India identified 101 key habitat corridors for elephants, a rise from 88 in 2005 due to reckless land use and unsustainable management. India’s human population is currently over 1.36 billion and growing exponentially, posing an existential threat to the 27,000 wild elephants who live there and make up over half of the population of the entire species. Our solution? To secure and restore these critical habitat corridors.
VFAES is focused on Nilambur, a valley of biodiversity located in Malappuram district of Northern Kerala.
Over 5,000 wild elephants currently live in Kerala, spread across four reserves. Decades ago, 58 acres of land in a core elephant habitat in the northern district of Malappuram was sold to five people to be used for rubber and banana plantations. The owners have kindly agreed to sell it back. Currently, elephants move through a bottleneck patch of forest known as the Nilambur Appankappu corridor (featured on the map above).
In partnership with the Kerala Forest Department (KFD), we plan to expand this corridor through land purchase and habitat restoration. By acquiring a two-acre plot adjacent to the corridor, we can widen it from 500 meters to one kilometer. This particular piece of land is critical due to the proximity of tribal people living nearby, fueling human-elephant conflict. Over five years, we plan to buy a total of 12 acres and hire local people to plant native species and protect the corridors.