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Jailed in Jungle: Why Wild Tigress Languishes in Enclosure, Needs to Be Probed

Two years ago, two wild tigers were relocated from Madhya Pradesh to Odisha under India’s maiden interstate -tiger translocation programme which failed miserably. The two big cats were shifted  to Satkosia tiger reserve in Odisha after its tiger population plummeted  from 11 in 2004 to 2 in 2014. One of the big cats  Mahavir sent from MP was reportedly  killed by poachers while Sundari, the tigress, accused of killing two persons,  landed behind barbed wires in a small  enclosure raising questions over the  wildlife management in the country. Many wildlife experts in  India feel that the Satkosia fiasco should be probed and the people responsible for the plight of the national animal  should be held accountable. Condemned to Captivity Before Sundari was condemned to captivity in  Ghorela enclosure in Mukki range of of Kanha  National park,  the tigress had  already  spent an agonizing period of  28 months in captivity in Satkosia, where it was sent  to find a new home and help populat

The Great Elephant Migration: Can MP Chattisgarh join hands to Welcome the Jumbo ?

Like tigers, elephants too are running. They are moving from East to West reclaiming their lost territories, lost more than 200 years ago. Like the big cats, the beast of burden is facing a huge crisis of fragmentation of jungle corridors and shrinking habitat . Following growing urbanisation and deforestation in elephant areas like west Bengal and Jharkhand in the east, the pachyderms are pushing westwards towards Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

 The Great Elephant Migration

We need to save this magnificent creature, revered in India because of its connection with lord Ganesha.  But the way elephants are treated raises    a question -  Are we Indians hypocrites? Is this reverence only a show off ?  

According to data  released by the Union ministry of environment and forest in February 2019, 373 elephants had died between 2015-16 and 2018-19 (till December 31, 2018) due to reasons like electrocution, train accident, poaching and poisoning. The number comes out to be almost eight every month. During the same period, a total of 1,713 human lives were lost in human-elephant conflict for which a compensation of Rs. 51.66 crore was paid.

The government also paid a compensation of over Rs 174.42 crore for the loss of crops and damage to property during this duration.

In the last one year, the numbers of deaths- both those of humans and elephants- have gone up creating concern for the wildlife lovers.  And as the man-elephant conflict rises, the cases of loss of property- including houses and crops- have also gone up exponentially.

Conservation Efforts

Recently,   news channels were airing pictures of dead   elephants in Chattisgarh where the Congress government has fast tracked  the setting up of Lemru elephant reserve (LER), spread over Korba, Katghora, Dharamjigarh and Surguja forest divisions of Korba, Raigad and Surguja districts. So far, about 250 elephants have already crossed over Jharkhand jungles as they migrate from east to west . It is believed that  the Chattisgarh elephants had died either of poisoning or electrocution following man- animal conflict in  a large area as the giant animal moved from one place to another damaging  property, crops and even killing villagers.

The present  LER area -1995.48 square kilometers- is likely to be extended after the catchment area of Hasdeo river spread over 250 sq km is included. However, the state government is facing a major hurdle because of the presence of four operational mines in the Hasdeo river’s catchment area, which also includes another five allotted mines and 12 coal reserves. The pristine Hasdeo Arand forest- where the LER is being set up, known for its high quality coal reserves.

The BJP government in 2007 had proposed this reserve in which only nine coal mining areas were included . The decision will not only help improve the elephant population but will also help in conserving the entire Hasdeo Arand forest.

Elephant experts in the prestigious Wildlife Institute of India (WII)  who researched in Chattisgarh said, “ this is a fantastic investment  for elephant conservation.”  They said this would go a long way in re-establishing  the migrating elephants and  minimizing conflict with the  pachyderm.”

If all goes well and  Hasdeo  catchment area is included, it will solve the issues of  water not only in  Chattisgarh but also in  the neighbouring Odisha, WII experts feel.

“ Like tiger , it is also an umbrella species and  its conservation  will lead to the protection of other species and also recharge the whole region”, they said.

New Settlements In Madhya Pradesh

                                                                               Ravi Shukla 

About 40 elephants from Chattisgarh have also reached Bandhavgarh national park in Umaria district of MP. There are about 10 more elephants in Sanjay  national park of Sidhi and they came directly  from Palamu in Jharkhand.

For the first time, Bandhavgarh reserve forest has become a colony of elephants for the past two years.

While India is home to 50 per cent of the Asian elephant population, and according to the 2017 elephant census there are 27,312 elephants in the country – a decrease, however, of nearly 3,000 from the 2012 census – there were no elephants in Madhya Pradesh then.

Experts said there were no known reasons for the disappearance  of elephants from  central  India including MP and until a few years ago Chhattisgarh, but experts say a loss of habitat could have led to this.

Elephant experts now say the development is a sign not only of a rise in elephant numbers in the country, and the fact that they are travelling, but also that they can thrive at a place given the right conditions.

This is for the first time in centuries that elephants have  stayed in MP . The present herd arrived in December 2018. Many experts  hoped that the  elephant herd from Bandhavgarh would return  but it did not happen.

Long ago, the elephants were found in Chattisgarh region’s Sarguja forests, perhaps,  till the  fag end of Mughal era. But they disappeared in the early 20th century only to reappear  in the 1990s and early-2000s. Presently, there are about 250 elephants in north Chhattisgarh that have mostly come from Odisha and Jharkhand.

 Crisis Looms Large

                                                                          Satyendra Tiwari 

When the elephants are  spreading in other parts of the country, the endangered species of the Asian elephant will be faced with further “heavy loss” in its habitat over the next few decades due to climate change, said a recent study , which predicts that with this situation, elephant range would likely shift towards higher elevations in the Himalayas.

This has also assumed significance as  a latest  research work on the elephants warned ,“The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus)  could lose over 40 % of its current habitat in India and Nepal due to climate change over the next few decades. The loss in habitat will lead to elephants seeking refuge at higher elevations in the Himalayan mountains. It could also lead to greater human-elephant conflict and may impact the future of other species as well”.

The study, recently published in the journal Diversity and Distributions emphasised that climate change will cause redistribution of species, directly through temperature and water availability and indirectly through further habitat modification.

Currently, the Asian elephant occupies only a small fraction of its historical range, with India and Nepal being home to more than 60 percent of the total population of the wild Asian elephants, said the study. But the species is under constant threat from land use changes due to the conversion of its habitat for agriculture, urbanisation, transportation and industry.

The results of the study suggested that by the end of this century, around 41.8 % of the 256,518 square kilometres of habitat available at present, will be lost due to combined effects of climate change and human pressure.

This is the reason why it is all the more important to protect the elephants.

In fact Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh should join hands  and work together in the direction of conservation of this beautiful species.

They should think beyond party lines and sink political differences to save the elephant. Can they do this? would want them to achieve this for the sake of mother nature.


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