THE KERALA ELEPHANT CORRIDOR PROJECT
Globally there are approximately 45,000 wild Asian elephants, of which 27,300+ (Elephant Census, 2017) are in India, mostly spread across 29 Elephant Reserves, covering 11 elephant landscapes in 14 states. India houses approximately 55% 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, at 1.36 billion as of May 14, 2019, 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 (HEC) 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.
Prioritizing 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.