Securing elephant habitats:The cornerstone of WWF’s work is to secure the elephant habitat including large tracts of interlinking forests through its Asian Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy (AREAS) programme which was launched in 2000. WWF-India is focusing its conservation efforts across four landscapes – Nilgiri Western Ghats, the northern bank of the Brahmaputra, Kaziranga and Karbi-Anglong and areas of the western Terai.
WWF-India has been working towards restoring and securing connectivity in elephant habitat landscapes with the participation of the forest departments in these regions, local NGOs and communities.
In the Terai Arc Landscape, WWF-India has been actively engaged with the Uttarakhand Forest Department in the areas between Kosi and Sharda rivers over an area of approximately 2000 km2 for estimating the elephant population. The results of this estimation will help in understanding the distribution of elephants in the state and develop appropriate management measures.
Managing Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC)1. Assam: HEC mitigation measures like community-managed power fencing, driving back crop-raiding elephants into forests using kunkis (trained captive elephants), formation and capacity-building of community-based anti-depredation squads (ADS), use of bio-repellents like chilli and setting up of early warning systems have been taken up to meet the challenge. Logistic and other critical support is being provided to the forest department for managing HEC and strengthening anti-poaching measures.
The Sonitpur Model of human-elephant conflict management has been implemented successfully in the Sonitpur and Udalguri districts in the North Bank Landscape of Assam.
2. Western Ghats: Radio/satellite collaring as a human-elephant conflict management measure was undertaken fortwo male elephants in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala. Three male elephants were radio/satellite collared to monitor individual behaviour after translocation in collaboration with the Karnataka Forest Department. They were captured from Hassan division and two of them were translocated to Bandipur Tiger Reserve and one to Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary. The monitoring of such radio-collared elephants helps in understanding their behaviour as well as its use as an early warning system to avoid potential conflict situations.
3. Terai Arc Landscape (TAL): Community-based solar electric fencing was erected for managing the human-elephant conflict. This measure has resulted in conflict management at different sites for seven villages. An area of more than 115 acres, which was lying fallow due to elephant conflict in these villages, has been re-cultivated after many years.
An elephant stone wall and crop trenches were put in place with the help of eco-developmental committees in the southern buffer of the Corbett Tiger Reserve, Lansdowne and Terai central forest divisions in areas with a high incidence of human-elephant conflict. Due to the erection of the stone wall in Aamsor village in the Lansdowne forest division, the elephant crop raids with a frequency of 15-20 per month were brought down to almost zero.
Anti-depredations squads have been formed and equipped in five villages in the Kosi and Baur river corridor to overcome conflict situations and drive elephants out of crop fields safely.
Use of non-palatable medicinal herbs as buffer crops is also being piloted in areas of high conflict in collaboration with Dabur India Limited.