Conflicts between linear developments and Asian elephants in sub - Himalayan zone of Uttranchal

Abstract

As a consequence of recent habitat fragmentation, the free movement of Asian elephants all over India has been disrupted to a great extent. The very existence of this largest terrestrial mammal is now under threat for various reasons, such as persecution for its ivory and blockage of migratory routes due to construction of many developmental projects. Shrinkage of elephants’ habitats due to linear developments (rail lines, roads, canals, and human habitation) in and around the protected areas give rise to foraging and migratory problems, resulting ultimately in man-elephant conflicts, confrontation among herds, and accidental deaths. The present paper discusses in detail threats faced by wild Asian elephants in the sub-Himalayan region in Rajaji National Park, Uttranchal, India. Various case studies of difficulties faced by elephants because of rail lines, roads, and irrigation and hydroelectric canals in the region have also been discussed. River Ganges flows through the habitat for about 24.0 km and divides it in two parts. The man-made barriers have shrunk the width of habitat along the river Ganges from 24.0 km to roughly 4.0 km. The rail line and road on the right and the irrigation and hydroelectric canal on the left of the Ganges have restricted the access of the elephants to the legendary river Ganges, the irresistible attraction for the wild Asian elephants, which they have to visit daily for drinking, bathing, and beating the heat in summer months. Therefore, the elephants look for alternate sources of water and food, and as a result, they enter human habitation and croplands, leading to the man-elephant conflicts. Moreover, with rail tracks in the vicinity, there have been numerous elephant deaths due to speeding trains. The frequent confrontations of elephants with moving traffic on rail lines and roads have made them irritable, restless, and prone to accidents. This paper examines the disastrous effects of incompatible design and construction of crossings on the age-old migration tracks and the existing linear developments and how they could be rectified in an animal-friendly way. The paper also suggests practical solutions to reduce the threats to elephants and to their habitats, ensuring sustainability of viable elephant populations in a habitat shrunk by human activity

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Last time updated on August 10, 2019

This paper was published in eScholarship - University of California.

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