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‘Corridor to Survival’ - Landscape Conservation Plan for Elephant Management


Since 1987, large numbers of elephants from Dalma Hills, in East Singbhum district of Jharkhand, have been entering the densely populated districts of Midnapore and Bankura in West Bengal. Predictably, this has resulted in human-elephant conflict of enormous proportion.
 
elephant at DalmaIn 2003, the Singhbhum Elephant Study was initiated by the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) to assess the probable reasons why wild elephants have been leaving the well-forested Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary in Jharkhand, and moving into locations wholly unsuited to these high-consuming animals. The study successfully identified the dissection of traditional transit paths - through Paschmi Singbhum in Jharkhand and into Keonjhar district of Orissa - as one of the reasons why the elephants had selected such unlikely places as post-monsoon habitat. It was the first such research on the dispersal behaviour of the Singbhum elephants

The ‘Corridor to Survival’ project initiated in May 2006, was a natural sequel to the Singhbhum Elephant Study. It was largely designed to: (i) identify the causes for disruption of the elephants’ transition paths through traditional use areas, (ii) map the Elephant Transit Paths (ETPs) of the recent past, (iii) identify present paths connecting northern Orissa with Jharkhand, and (iv) assess the habitat status in relation to biogeography of the use areas. The primary aim of the study was to develop a Management Plan for Elephant Landscape Design. This included the development of site-specific habitat management procedures for the re-creation of   lost transit paths, that would ensure the uninterrupted movement of elephants between the northern limits of their traditional distribution range at Dalma Hills in Jharkhand, to Keonjhar in Orissa.

This is no easy task. The elephants have to cross two canals near Dalma Rengali Irrigation Prokect, OrissaWildlife Sanctuary in Jharkhand, railway crossings, human habitation, and finally a web of iron ore mines. But miraculously it is feasible, for there are still patches of forests with sufficient seasonal food through their traditional migration routes.

The present study has found that small groups of elephants have started venturing south of Dalma into the Seraikella Forest Division, and then further down towards the jungles of Saranda in Jharkhand, bordering the Orissa highlands. Unfortunately, here the elephants face a predicament worse than any in the past - the destruction of their traditional transit paths by open-cast iron ore mines. The recent rise in demand for iron ore in domestic as well as international markets has ensured the diversion of large patches of forests for mining. Presently, more than 100 leases are in operation in the northern mining belt of Keonjhar district in Orissa, in addition to other industrial units that have been set up to support the mines. The mining boom became apparent here in 2002, around the same time that the Olympics Games was announced in China. The world experienced an mining activities in Keonjharunprecedented growth in demand for finished steel, which in turn created a rise in demand for iron ore, the raw material need for steel manufacturing. Beneath the 1,500 km2 of well-forested land in the Keonjhar and Sundergarh districts of Orissa and the Paschimi Singhbum district of Jharkhand, lies an estimated 5 billion tons of high-grade iron ore.

In Jharkhand and Orissa, 2,000 and almost 5,000 hectares respectively, of prime Elephant habitat is now under the miners’ shovels, erasing all signs of the forest corridors that have been used by elephants for thousands of year. This has forced the wild elephants to move into areas where they have not been recorded in the recent past, and has resulted in a phenomenal rise in human-elephant conflict. The enormity of the threat to the survival of wild elephants in eastern India can be clearly seen by comparing records of elephant mortality, before and after the increase in mining activities in the region (see chart).

Project Achievements

  • This is the first micro-level, on-foot distribution and landscape study of wild elephants undertaken in India.
  • An overview of forests in elephant-use areas, and past and present elephant transit paths (ETPs), has been completed in Orissa’s Sundergarh, Keonjhar and Angul districts. Sambalpur, Dhenkanal and Mayurbanj are left. In the state of Jharkhand, an overview has been completed in all three elephant-bearing districts - Paschimi Singbhum, Purbhi Singbhum and Sarai Kella.
  • The project team has identified suitable alternative ETPs in the areas mentioned above, and is in the process of developing the necessary methodology for re-creating ETPs that may be used by groups of elephants that are presently isolated. This would allow them access to traditional foraging areas. We are in contact with user agencies in Jharkhand and Orissa, such as mine owners, forest departments, irrigation departments, district administrations and villagers.
  • The state Forest Departments are strongly supporting the study and some of the short-term recommendations have already been implemented. Open cast mines are a serious threat to transiting elephants between home ranges spread over two states.The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs) of Orissa helped WPSI organise a meeting with mine owners and managers in the town of Joda. The turnout was excellent. The miners showed support for the project and agreed to certain recommendations, such as regulating timings for dynamite blasts and the regeneration of elephant transit paths which fall within their mine lease areas. Constant follow-up with different iron ore mine owners of the region, have already encouraged them to consider several of our suggestions that would ensure safe access through their leasehold areas.
  • Based on the study, the Forest Department has also come down heavily on both mining and the use of crushing plants at night. In one remote village called Potuakudur, where human-elephant conflict is common, the DFO has constructed a six feet high stone wall along an important elephant transit path. The wall’s construction has been completed and a two km gap has been left, to allow elephants and other animals to cross from one forest patch to another without coming into conflict with the village or passing fields in between. Such measures will greatly improve the long-term viability of elephant transit paths.
  • Over the past 18 months, several field visits and meetings in the state capitals of Orissa and Jharkhand have yielded unexpectedly encouraging results and many crucial suggestions have either been executed or are in an advanced stage of being implemented. There are a number of other recommendations that need to be pursued vigorously.
  • Our Corridor to Survival project pointed out to the state authorities the gross irregularities in the EIA report still being followed by the Khanpur/Baitarani Irrigation Project that would submerge a vitally important elephant corridor in Keonjhar district in Orissa, along with nine villages to be submerged completely and seven partially. Follow-up action has already prompted the decision to insist that the project proponents should conduct another updated EIA/EMP before proceeding with any further construction work.
  • The wildlife directorates of both Jharkhand and Orissa, are depending on the findings of this project for their official Management Plans and have insisted on our participation in both the planning and execution stage of different action plans.
  • Aware of the negative repercussions of the Khanpur/Baitarani Irrigation Project, WPSI has brought to the notice of the Orissa authorities the ongoing construction of a massive irrigation canal under the Rengali Irrigation Project. The Project authorities are digging two main canals (on both sides of the Brahmani River) with a maze of subsidiary irrigation channels originating from the Samal barrage in Dhenkanal district. The length of the left bank and right bank canals will be 141 and 112 km, respectively. Of this, 30 km along the left bank has already been completed. A huge area of elephant habitat falls within the direct impact zone of the project and almost the entire length of the canal system would pass through forests used by wild elephants, either as home ranges or transit paths. In order to mitigate the impact of the canal system, our Project Manager was requested by the PCCF & CWLW, Orissa, to assist in the preparation of an Elephant Management Action Plan.
  • The Action Plan has now been accepted by the Orissa Forest Department and is ready to be implemented. The salient recommendations are:
  • Construction of elephant-friendly, transit ramps
  • Construction of elephant-proof, energized fences and rubble walls
  • Water Management, including water harvesting structures
  • Grass plot development
  • Habitat manipulation, including Eupatorium eradication
  • Creation of forest protection squads and vigil huts
  • Human resource development, including capacity building for forest personnel at the forest training college



 

 

 

 

 

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TIGER NEWS


Illegal Tiger Trade: Why Tigers Are Walking Gold, National Geographic,14th Mar, 2014

Green Tribunal pours cold water on construction in Thekkady Tiger Reserve, 12th Mar, 2014

TIGER DEATHS IN 2014
 Mortality                 17
 Poaching &             
 Seizures                    4
___________________
       Total                   21

TIGER DEATHS IN 2013
 Mortality                  38
 Poaching &              42
 Seizures                   
___________________
       Total                    80


TIGER POACHING 1994-2013

WILDLIFE NEWS


 Move to dehorn rhinos draws condemnation, 28th Mar., 2014


PMO pulled out all stops to weaken eco, forest norms, 28th Feb., 2014


LEOPARD DEATHS IN 2014
 Mortality                 59
 Poaching &             41
 Seizures             
___________________
       Total                  100
     

LEOPARD DEATHS IN 2013
 Mortality               217
 Poaching &           110
 Seizures             
___________________
       Total                 327


LEOPARD POACHING 1994-2013


TIGER RESERVES
Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve Map 

Bandhavgarh


 
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