GUWAHATI, July 2 - Alarmed by the rampant loss and fragmentation of forest cover in the North-east that has triggered a raging man-elephant conflict in the region, especially in Assam, five NGOs under the umbrella of the Asian Elephant Alliance have joined hands under an MoU to raise £20 million for securing a hundred elephant corridors in India by 2025.
The occasion was marked by a fund-raising event at Lancaster House in London that was hosted by Prince Charles (Prince of Wales) and the Duchess of Cornwall – joint presidents of Elephant Family.
The five NGOs are Elephant Family, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), IUCN Netherlands, World Land Trust, and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) – all pledging to revive the plummeting fortunes of the Indian elephant which is being pushed to the brink in the face of unabated forest cover loss.
Commenting on the developments, WTI’s executive director Vivek Menon said, “Five leading conservation organisations, hundred key elephant corridors but one goal; nothing pleases me more than the coming together of the global community in the fight for this endangered species.”
The India State of Forest Report-2013 released in 2014 stated that there had been a net decline of 627 sq kms in forest cover in the northeastern States as compared to the last assessment done in 2011.
With 100 elephant corridors documented by WTI in consultation with the Forest departments, this alliance aims to secure a safe passage for India’s elephants, which comprise approximately half of the world’s wild Asian elephant population.
The worsening situation vis-a-vis the raging man-elephant conflict can be gauged from the fact that every year India loses nearly 400 people and about 50 elephants to the conflict that stems from the rapidly shrinking elephant habitat.
Significantly, while most of the tiger habitat falls within the protected area, only 22 per cent of elephant habitat has some kind of protection, which means that a majority of the elephant population in the country is living around human-dominated landscapes which have become hotbeds of the man-elephant conflict.
Conservationists believe that securing elephant corridors would be critical to facilitating unhindered movement of the pachyderms from one fragmented habitat to another, and ensuring that both humans and elephants co-exist.
WTI started its corridor secure project in 2001 and has since then secured three corridors in Karnataka, Kerala and Meghalaya.
“Considering how arduous resettlement and relocation is in India, it took years of negotiations for the WTI team to relocate villages falling within these corridors. In the process, WTI has worked out four model methods of securing corridors and will use these to secure the remaining targeted corridors,” a WTI official engaged in the project said.
“WTI with its partners is currently working on securing four corridors connecting Kaziranga with various reserve forests and wildlife sanctuaries to provide critically needed safe passage for the large population of wild elephants in this region,” he added.