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| Last Updated:: 13/01/2017

Landscape connectivity key to elephant protection - study











While erection of electrified fences and digging of trenches form the typical response to mitigating conflicts between human beings and wild elephants, a recent study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-India Programme says that such a strategy has a direct negative impact on elephant connectivity in the wild.




This strategy that comes with substantial monetary costs can also impact wild elephant conservation, says the study by WCS scientists Varun R. Goswami and Divya Vasudev, published in the international journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution last month. It highlights the need to balance conservation needs in human-inhabited landscapes.




In India, endangered species such as elephants and tigers are more present in fragmented habitats. Very often, it is those sites that are important for elephant connectivity that face human-elephant conflict. “Minimising conflict without impinging on elephant connectivity is the need of the hour.”




Therefore, there is a need to think differently from barrier-centric conflict mitigation conservation strategies. Dr. Goswami says that wild Asian elephant survival in heterogeneous landscapes rests on their ability to move among habitats in search of food and space.




But this brings elephants into potential conflict with people. A typical response to conflict is to prevent elephants from coming out of forests by erecting fences and trenches.




Dr. Vasudev says that while there is a line of thinking that this problem can be overcome with demarcated corridors, animals do not always move through corridors that people demarcate. “Corridors are important, but we still have a long way to go in knowing which areas are most critical for maintaining connectivity.”





This debate becomes highly pertinent in the light of the railway fences coming up around some of India’s most important forests, the study says. “These fences come at huge monetary and manpower costs, and before putting them up, we need to think hard about where we place them,” Dr. Goswami says. “It is critical that we minimise human-elephant conflict while simultaneously thinking about elephant movement between habitats. Conserving them in these landscapes means that we need a science-based policy and long-term vision that incorporate diverse challenges and opportunities,” Dr. Vasudev says.








Source: The Hindu