Land of the Elephant Programme
Elephants are classified as mega-herbivores and have voracious appetites. Mega – herbivores like the elephant require large areas or home ranges to live in. These home ranges extend from several hundred to even several thousand square kilometres. Their traditional habitats or areas where they were found were once large viable and contiguous landscapes. However over the past few decades, economic developments, expansion of settlements, and extensive cultivation, have led to fragmentation, shrinkage and degradation of habitats. The Asian elephants today are existing in isolated populations with minimal prospects of inter-mingling. This poses a risk of in-breeding and eventual extinction of the species.
ANCF believes that the key to the long-term conservation of elephants lies in the maintenance of the integrity of its habitat landscapes. An important component of this strategy is the preservation and restoration of biological corridors between large source patches. Corridors are linear landscapes that structurally link fragmented and isolated habitats thereby moderating the negative effects of habitat fragmentation by facilitating movement between them.
The current activities in this area include field surveys of elephant distribution, and mapping of elephant habitats. Extensive research is being undertaken to protect and strengthen existing corridors. Details such as vegetation, land use, habitations, biotic pressures and human artefacts along the corridors are being analysed. Potential corridors need to be “ground truthed” for determining their importance, feasibility of creation and costs involved. ANCF has a programme for identifying and mapping corridors as well as raising funds for securing or augmenting them.
These landscapes are, however, surrounded by human settlements. Recent developments and events suggest that elephant corridors, even after they are accorded protected area status, may actually be fragile because of human presence and influence in their near vicinity, and mere legal protection may not be adequate to serve the purpose in the long run. Constant monitoring of the corridors and of the surrounding areas is essential in order to identify fresh human induced threats so that remedial measures can be taken promptly.