Elephant corridor, a New Year gift to Karnataka jumbos

This has been made possible by an NGO, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) supported by its partner – the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) which has purchased nearly 25 acre-Kollegal (Edayarhalli–Doddasampige) elephant corridor from private ownership and transferred to the state government. The corridor which connects Kollegal forests to Biligiri Ranganswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary would be soon notified to be made a part of a protected area as Karnataka Forest Department officials and WTI signed the land ownership transfer agreement last week.

"Purchasing corridor land for securement is a very good initiative to re-establish the habitat and remove impediments to elephant movement. Generally, these kind of initiatives are easier with involvement of NGOs rather than government doing it alone. "More corridors need to be secured similarly to ensure long-term conservation of elephants," said Biswajit Misra, Karnataka Deputy Conservator of Forests. Simultaneously, people will be made aware of the status and significance of the corridor, he added.

Sandeep Kumar Tiwari, who heads WTI's National Elephant Project adds, "This corridor provides a safe passage for more than a thousand elephants besides other wild animals in this landscape, and will undoubtedly help minimise human-elephant conflicts." "It is usually easy for the NGOs to restore passage by purchasing the corridors and handing over to the government. "They are trying to persuade the community or individual in handing over the area for elephants which need contagious patch of forests for free movement," AN Prasad, Director of Project Elephant of environment ministry said.

A second elephant corridor restoration agreement has been signed by the WTI with the Kerala Forest Department for Tirunelli-Kudrakote corridor that can be used by 5,000 elephants to move between the Brahmagiri Hills near Coorg in Karnataka and the northern Wyanad region in Kerala. Four families have been re-settled and given new homes to clear this corridor. Works are also on to secure the Siju-Rewak Corridor in the north-east in the Garo Hills in Meghalaya, which would protect an important population by addressing the problem of forest  fragmentation which is a serious threat to the elephants' survival.

This corridor project links together the Siju Wildlife Sanctuary and the Rewak Reserve Forest in Meghalaya State, close to the India-Bangladesh border. This area, owned by tribal communities, lies within the meeting place of the Himalayan Mountain Range and the Indian Peninsula and contains at least 139 other species of mammal, including tiger, clouded leopard and the Himalayan Black Bear. "We try hard to convince people about the utility of these corridors for the endangered jumbos. In most cases, people living in these (corridor) areas tend to be fed up with frequent conflicts with the elephants and are willing to move out to land not frequented by jumbos," Tiwari added. This is not the first time that such an initiative has taken by the WTI.

With the support of World Land Trust, Elephant Family, IUCN-Netherlands, besides IFAW, WTI has been working to secure critical elephant corridors across the country, by purchasing corridor land from private owners and transferring it to the government for inclusion into adjoining protected areas, or through community involvement. Resident settlements are provided land with newly-constructed houses with improved amenities in an alternative site identified and selected with their consent.

In some cases, local communities are encouraged to voluntarily set aside community land for conservation. The consenting communities are provided support for eco-development to reduce their dependence on forest resources. "We don't want them to complain and make attempts to come back to the corridor. So we ensure their satisfaction only then they are relocated," Tiwari pointed out. These restored corridors are among 88 corridors identified by the WTI as traditional routes for elephants to move between forest areas and would provide them a safe corridor between major wildlife sanctuaries in the region.

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