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 Animals  India Project #21710

Help Save Elephants in India

by Wildlife Trust of India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Elephant in Corridor
Elephant in Corridor

Wildlife conservation today is in a challenging situation with the increase in demand for land by/for people and the diminishing space set aside for wildlife. Among all, the situation is grim for India’ National Heritage Animal, the Elephant, whose population today is facing the major setback due to habitat loss and fragmentation. The historical range of elephants in India has considerably shrunk confining this magnificent species to distinct geographical zones. India today holds more than 50% of all the Asian Elephant population in 12 states, being limited to patchy forest cover interspersed with human habitation. However, the elephant being large-bodied, continuously move around in search of food and water and for such movement uses these fragmented and degraded linear patches of forests connecting major habitats, commonly known as Elephant corridors. Wildlife Trust of India has identified 101 such Corridors across India and working tirelessly to secure them to provide the right of Passage for Elephants through four significant Models. One such model is Green Corridor Champions (GCCs) which identifies and creates local stakeholders ( e.g. local Influencers, individuals, organizations, and policymakers) for monitoring and maintaining the integrity of these corridors which would be the ideal solution to rising human-elephant conflict as per the studies. As of now, WTI has successfully secured six Elephant Corridors and closely maintaining regular surveillance over the wildlife movement.

However, movement of elephants across corridors often brings them in close contact to human settlements leading to conflict. The positive and negative attributes of corridors only stress on the need to protect forest cover and reduce the pace of habitat loss. The more forest cover we lose elephants are going to be drawn more towards human settlements and fields for easy food and water.

One such habitat-threatening situation recently has been underway in Gorumara National Park, North West Bengal. This protected area surrounded by Lataguri reserve forest in the south and Chaparamani Wildlife sanctuary in the north is a semi-evergreen forest, rich in megafaunas such as one-horned Rhinoceros and Asian elephants. Elephants frequently use this stretch of forest and stray into the adjoining villages to raid crops. Lataguri, also a growing tourist hub, became an important midway stoppage for tourists plying on the Jalpaiguri-Malbazar route, which incidentally runs through the National Park. Given the economic benefits, the state administration planned to expand the road and railway infrastructure. There were reports of over 500 full grown trees and 2,500 smaller trees, which were felled from Gorumara National Park- Lataguri fringes. A local organization, Society for Protecting Ophiofauna & Animal Rights (SPOAR) intimated us about and initiated talks with concerned agencies to stop this tree- felling activity. It was learned, the felling was carried out to make way for a mega infrastructure project that has the potential to completely destroy a healthy forest habitat, which is home to twelve Schedule-I species (Wildlife Protection Act,1972) predator and prey species. The impact would be disastrous for the elephants who have been using the area as a migratory route for centuries. With the advent of this project, they will now be forced to use an alternate pathway and put villages and locals in inevitable peril of conflict situation.

To help SPOAR further strengthen their lobbying efforts Wildlife Trust of India with the help of its donors have initiated a holistic effort i.e. technical and legal support for addressing this terrifying issue and also monitor the elephant corridors, identified in this landscape. In addition to this Wildlife Trust of India is organizing ‘Gaj Mahotsav’ partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). The aim of the event is to bring in conservationist, researchers, key stakeholders from varied government and non-government bodies in one common platform and generate political and public support which in turn leads to positive conservation action to protect elephants. SPOAR along with 20 more organizations from all elephant ranging states have been invited to present and discuss their experiences about successful elephant conservation measures. The event will serve as an exposure visit to exchange views and learn new strategies for better conservation. Through these kinds of collaboration, we aim to keep a strict vigil and ensure the habitat Is intact for these gentle giants, thus providing safe Right of Passage.

Elephant raiding crop fields in rural India
Elephant raiding crop fields in rural India
Lataguri Treefalling
Lataguri Treefalling
Garo Frontline Staff Trainning
Garo Frontline Staff Trainning

Undulating hills in the pristine North-east of India are the Garo Hills in the state of Meghalaya. Spread through an area of 8167 sq.km is mightily rich in biodiversity, and the species worth boasting for, is the Asian elephant. This is the paradise hosting the largest number of Asian elephants in India and also home to India’s only ape species, the Hoolock Gibbon, Red panda and tigers.

The elephant population in Meghalaya is described as the most pressurized with the inflating human-elephant conflict with elephants raiding paddy fields of the akings ( land owned by local communities).Born free, in the wild where every day is a struggle for survival and their only crime is to be driven by hunger.

Not just elephants, but from time to time the wildlife has been under constant threat in this region. Humans may have become the greatest threat to wildlife, but they are also the protectors who take actions on the ground to contribute for our environment with forest department.

WTI with the kind support of GlobalGiving, provided training for the frontline forest staff of East & West Garo hills Wildlife Division on conflict management and elephant behavior. The trainees were taken on an exposure visit to WTI’s Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation in Panbari Reserve forest where they were briefed by the Veterinary officer on rescue and rehabilitation of small and big mammals, mainly focusing on elephant behavior and management techniques. The centre is one of the few places with success stories of elephant rehabilitation and release back into the wild.

The trainees had hands on experience with learning about elephant social behavior, physiology and stress indicators. They were also taken on a visit to Kaziranga National park where they got to observe elephants in the wild and learnt to study their behavior. The Divisional Forest Officer, N.R.D.Marak said” We are extremely grateful for WTI’s initiative. This training has motivated the staff and made them confident to handle elephant conflict more efficiently. The Division can now assure that the frontline staff will work better and also pass on their knowledge to the others”

Distribution of Blankets and Powerful Search Light
Distribution of Blankets and Powerful Search Light

Human-Elephant conflict mitigation in Assam through community mobilization

With the support of GlobalGiving, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) helped in providing aid to high Human-elephant conflict (HEC) prone areas in Assam, North-east of India. HEC is one of the rising complex issues of today. Elephants cannot survive simply through strict protection of National parks and sanctuaries. Habitats outside reserves often act as crucial link or corridor between large tracts of habitats. However, unprecedented human population growth has caused increasing conversion of natural habitat to human dominated landscapes, bringing elephants and humans in close contact and conflict.

Assam in North-east India exemplifies HEC amongst agricultural communities. Golaghat and Karbi-Anglong areas in Assam are one of the oldest elephant habitats, having an elephant density as high as 0.16 per sq.Km. (Elephant census 2017). A total of 303 people have reportedly died and 137 were injured in Assam since 2011. The loss incurred due to crop raiding by elephants averages to around 110,000 $ each year (Documented by government, 2012). Such heavy losses in the area urged WTI to help the local communities in the area to address the issue.

 While the forest department has taken steps to reduce the incidences of crop raiding, the communities unanimously felt the need to assist them in addressing the issue. The villagers from twelve conflict prone villages, Golaghat district decided to form anti-depredation squads and built machans (watchtowers) in strategic points using their own resources to monitor elephant movement and divert them away. On finding that the members of the anti-depredation squads lacked some basic equipment, WTI distributed powerful searchlights and blankets which would help them keep a watch on elephants at night.

 The success story of Thoramukh, Golaghat district in mitigating conflict encouraged the neighboring villages of West Karbi-Anglong to adopt the same strategy. Thirteen local anti-depredation squad members of Tumpreng and Rongkhang, West Karbi-anglong were also supported with field equipment (Powerful searchlights and blankets). The Karbi-Anglong Council is planning on working in close partnership with WTI and initiating more such conflict mitigation projects in the area.

Such elephant-orientated efforts like conflict resolution and community involvement can act as a bridge between local people and conservation efforts of the forest department. Communities that would otherwise have high risk of becoming involved in poaching and developing resentment and animosity toward elephants, by active inclusion and involvement in anti-poaching and conflict-mitigation efforts will eventually help in protecting elephants.

 "We are thankful to the donors for providing us this much-needed equipment"  Ram Baruah, a member of one of the anti-depredation squads. “These high-powered searchlights supported by WTI and Global giving donors will definitely help the villagers drive elephants away from croplands during the night” said Mr. Bey,  Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) 

Wildlife Trust of India is thankful to all the donors at GlobalGiving for their generous donations towards the cause and encouraging us  through their continuous support.

Meeting and Distribution of Kits
Meeting and Distribution of Kits
The anti-depredation squad with kit
The anti-depredation squad with kit
Elephant Crop Raiding
Elephant Crop Raiding

The forests of Golaghat and adjacent district of Karbi-Anglong symbolize a key landscape for elephants, represented by a number of reserve forests and sanctuaries. There are established corridors (Kalapahar-Daigurung) in the region, which the elephants use as their migratory path between patches of forests. However, in the last decade or so the area has experienced high levels of fragmentation owing to the large-scale destruction of forests, caused by expansion of agriculture lands, tea gardens, linear infrastructures, mining etc. The obliteration of their natural corridor has exposed these gentle giants to conflict with humans living along the forest fringes. Depleting resources within the forests has additionally contributed to higher levels of conflict, as herds of elephants visit these fringe villages in search of food and water. Loss of crop, property and human lives due to raiding elephants, has forced the locals to see them as a threat to their well being.

Thoramukh and Thorajan in the south west part of the Golaghat district lie in close proximity to three protected areas i.e. Nambor Doi RF, Garampani WLS, Daigurung RF and experience high levels of crop raiding cases, especially during the paddy season. As per records, the elephant herds here destroy 70-80% of the total crop produce, which puts a major economic dent on the farmers. Recently, the affected locals unanimously decided to address this issue and have plans to construct watch towers. They are also in the process of forming anti depredation squads (each squad to have 4-5 members), by engaging youths from the affected villages. However, they lack and are in need of technical guidance to carry this initiative effectively. As a result, they requested Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) to assist them in this and provide basic gears such as high powered torches for the squads, to help them drive away the crop raiding elephants from the fields.

WTI acknowledging this initiative has agreed to assist them in implementing the mitigation measures, thereby reducing crop loss and retaliatory killing of elephants. Through this endeavour, WTI also aims to showcase the effectiveness of a community driven model to mitigate HEC in the targeted region.

Team addressed the heightened levels of HEC.
Team addressed the heightened levels of HEC.

Elephants are highly intelligent, long ranging animals that follow traditional migratory routes, passed down from one generation to the next, to move between forested areas in search of food and water. With the destruction and fragmentation of wild habitats caused by multitude of natural and anthropogenic factors these gentle giants are forced to move through human dominated areas, causing an upsurge in Human-Elephant conflict (HEC).

Elephant corridors form vital natural habitat linkages between forest patches and allow elephants to maintain genetic flow and offset seasonal variations in the availability of forage and water. Dadzu-Lumia Elephant Corridor (also known as the Dezzling Elephant Corridor) serves as the critical linkage for elephant habitats of Pakke Tiger Reserve and Doimara Forest Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh. In the past few years, Elephants moving through the areas had been entering human settlements in the fringe villages of Ramda, Khuppi, and Kimi, posing a threat to human lives and causing damage to property (houses, parked vehicles, kitchen gardens etc.) As human-wildlife conflict can reduce local support for species conservation, urgent action was required. 

Through your support, Rapid Action Project was initiated to address the escalating problem of HEC. Local people were motivated and engaged who could aid in conflict mitigation. Adequate training on elephant behaviors and effective techniques of driving elephants from human settlements were provided. The Anti depredation team thus formed, were also provided logistical support and essential equipments required for the proper conduct of their duties in areas where conflict was most common. 

During the course of the project, the anti depredation teams made successful interventions including driving away a wild elephants that had been regularly raiding a granary in Tippi village, and chasing a herd of five elephants away from another settlement and into Pakke Tiger Reserve. The teams monitored the area on a regular basis and no other conflict situation was reported. In fact, no loss of life or property has been recorded since the RAP was implemented.

The team trained on conflict mitigation techniques will continue to avoid HEC instances within the area and ensure that our National Heritage animal is given their Right of passage for years to come.

Anti depredation teams mitigating the HEC.
Anti depredation teams mitigating the HEC.
 

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Organization Information

Wildlife Trust of India

Location: Noida, Uttar Pradesh - India
Website:
Project Leader:
Sahil Choksi
Noida, Uttar Pradesh India
$32,883 raised of $50,000 goal
 
517 donations
$17,117 to go
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