'Nagarahole optimal habitat for Asiatic elephants'

'Bandipur, Nagarahole optimal habitats for Asiatic elephants'

The Bandipur and Nagarahole forests are the optimal habitats for Asiatic elephants and that one tiger, two elephants and a leopard exists per 7 sqkm, said T Balachandra, director, Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

In his talk, ‘The tales of Elephas Maximus-Asiatic Elephants’, organised by the University of Mysore, as part of ‘World Environment Day,’ said, Bandipur and Nagarahole forests combined has the highest tiger and elephant population in the world as the forests were nearly ‘optimal habitats.’

The overall status of tropical mixed deciduous forests with bamboo and grasslands, where the standing bio-volume and the above-ground herbaceous biomass are the principal criteria to provide a protective cover, food and water that can sustain fairly large populations of elephants.

The availability of drinking water being fairly adequate, the two ecological units with their different vegetation with grasslands and ‘hodlu or gadde’ could be described as near ‘optimal habitats’. Fortunately, Bandipur and Nagarahole have all the features and thus creates a good atmosphere for the animals, he said.

On the threats to the elephants, the director said, poaching of elephants for ivory, fragmentation of habitat, degradation of habitat, electrocution, poisoning, gunfire for protection of crops were major threats for elephants. However, the poaching and other crimes on elephants declined after Project Elephant was launched in the country in 1992.

The population of these animals was about 15,000 when the project was started. Now the numbers are increased to nearly 30,000, the director said.  

On their food habits, Balachandra said, African elephants are mostly browsers while Asian elephants are mainly grazers. They can consume as much as 150 kg food and 40 litres water in a day.

Female elephants spend their entire lives in a tight-knit matrilineal family group. The average group size in African savanna elephants ranges from 10 -12 individuals whereas Asian elephants live in much smaller groups, approximately six individuals, he said.

The vocalisation of elephants’ calls can broadly be classified into four basic types-trumpet, chirps, roars and rumbles. While ‘trumpet’ are high-frequency calls, produced in different contexts such as social interactions during the disturbance, ‘chirps’ are the calls are mainly produced when elephants are surprised. Roars also high-frequency calls produced when elephants are scared or seeking help and ‘rumbles’ are low-frequency components mainly used to contact another individual.