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Ken Betwa Project : Plan to Massacre Millions of Trees Give Goosebumps

 India should  drop the idea  of Ken Betwa  Linking Project (KBLP) which will require felling of  2 to 4  million trees in the emerald forests of Panna national park . Think of the  loss of this staggering  number of trees  in the backdrop of the  unprecedented summers that the country  experienced in the year 2024. Many parts of Bundelkhand where Panna  is situated recorded 49 degrees Celsius while the mercury  soared to 52.9 degrees C in Delhi, later corrected by the government to 50 degrees C (49.9). For a moment forget  the loss of tiger habitat  in the park, think over our own survival. Referring to the  special morphological significance and unique biodiversity of Panna national park, the central empowered committee of the Supreme Court  on the KBLP  observed ," implementing this project would result in the complete breakdown of the evolutionary processes of millions of years." It warned of the widespread ecological devastation.River Ken  is lifeline of  the tiger reser

As You Watch The Elephant Whisperer, Let's Learn The Plight Of The Pachyderm

 

Elephant migration

The ElephantWhisperer- the Oscar winning  short documentary - may have  touched the hearts of millions as it narrated the story of the two calves and the animal loving couple, a large number of elephant calves are actually not lucky enough to  get such affection and compassion. As the great elephant migration continues   from east to west across India,  the real-life plight of the pachyderm is different from the reel- life love, often portrayed in the movies. Let's pause and  understand why ,amidst squeezing habitat, food and fodder shortage, the elephant in India is more endangered than the highly protected tiger. These gentle giants need more space and food as compared to the big cat.

100 Elephants Die Every Year 


elephants in jungle

The ever increasing quest for land by a growing human population throughout the Indian elephant’s habitat is leaving  a very little room for the “ intelligent beast” . The situation is further aggravated by Illegal encroachment into protected areas and clearing of forests for linear development works including roads. This  is causing a  great damage to  the already  fragmented  forest leading to a habitat loss.  “ Habitat loss not only leaves elephants without reliable food sources and shelter, it can also cause them to be confined to isolated populations that cannot follow ancient migratory routes or mix with other herds”,   said the world wildlife fund- India (WWF-India) . India has 32 elephant reserves in 14 states. But studies have shown that only 30 % of the country’s wild elephants live in large and contiguous forests, while the rest are distributed across fragmented landscapes that have shrunk amid growing human activities, including cultivation. With the expansion of cultivated land along forest boundaries, experts say, elephants are increasingly being drawn to forage for crops such as maize, millets, paddy, sugarcane, and vegetables. In the last five years, India lost 494 elephants to train accidents, electrocution, poaching and poisoning, the parliament was informed in March 2023. 

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

Responding to a question in the Lok Sabha, the environment ministry said electrocution through contact with power transmission lines accounted for 348 elephant deaths followed by train accidents (80), poaching (41) and poisoning (25) between 2017-18 and 2021-22. Experts believe that the number may appear small (494 deaths) against a population of nearly 30,000 wild elephants, such deaths could disrupt herd dynamics and further increase the risk of human-elephant conflicts (HEC) . However, the number of calves’ deaths is not known.   The loss of an older elephant in a herd is like the death of an elderly human in some “This is loss of experience for the others in the herd,” , a member of the elephant cell at the Wildlife Institute of India said . In the absence of older elephants, the younger ones could stray into human-dominated landscapes leading to HEC, experts said.

 The Great Elephant Migration


elephants cross railway tracks

Shrinking habitat, food and fodder shortage led to a huge migration of elephants in India. Following their ancient routes, they migrate from one jungle to another. As the landscape and climate changed, so did the animals. The New Scientist writes - Although they originated in Africa about 45 million years ago, the ancestors of modern elephants made several intercontinental treks during periods of low sea level. The earliest migration out of Africa was some 22 million years ago. Then, between 11.5 and 7 million years ago, elephantoids migrated back to Africa in two or three waves. Mammoths and the ancestors of the present-day Asian elephant probably evolved in Africa between 4 and 5 million years ago, and began migrating back into Eurasia two million years after that.  Fast forward, the Asian elephant continues to look for new territories in the need of food and shelter. Nitin Sekar, WWF-India’s national lead for elephant conservation, explains what’s behind human-elephant conflict in Assam. And this theory is applicable across the country.  He said, “ Elephants move out of remaining forest patches and cross into human-dominated areas due to two factors he describes as “push” and “pull.” With deforestation reducing their habitat by half within a short period of time, elephants have been left with few options but to enter villages and tea plantations bordering forests. This is the push factor. The pull factor is when elephants are drawn to food that’s more appealing than their forest fare—rice grains in agricultural fields or vegetables and legumes in kitchen gardens.


In the early 1900s, a steep decline in the number of Asian elephants was observed in the central parts of India, possibly due to anthropogenic activities. A few decades later, elephants that would erstwhile journey through Jharkhand and Odisha began to establish a new range in the Chhattisgarh region, writes Wildlife SOS,  a conservation non -profit organization in India. The estimated number of elephants in Chattisgarh has crossed 300 marks. Their migration through dense forests often resulted in encounters with humans. This impacted both species adversely. From Chattisgarh they have entered Madhya Pradesh and a sizable number have settled down Bandhavgarh tiger reserve (50)  and Sanjay Dubri national park (10) .They have been using Sanjay Dubri National park as a transit route to  enter Madhya Pradesh. Elephants have also reached Kanha national park and from there they can travel to Pench tiger reserve and then to Satpuda tiger reserve in Hoshangabah , said Mridul Pathak, former  director of Bandhavgarh national park.

Poaching On The Rise 


Ivory confiscated

“As South Asia’s population explodes, elephants are getting squeezed into smaller areas leading to major conflicts; we need to champion solutions that help both elephants and people.”  Said Dr. Barney Long ,Asian Species Expert. This elephantine crisis  of migration is also leading to  the killing of the animal.  Indian elephants may spend up to 19 hours a day feeding and they can produce about 220 pounds of dung per day while wandering over an area that can cover up to 125 square miles. They feed mainly on grasses, but large amounts of tree bark, roots, leaves and small stems are also eaten. And when they don’t get it in the jungle, they move out to the neighbouring villages foraging. Elephants are large and destructive animals and small farmers can lose their entire livelihood overnight from an elephant raid. They have also caused millions of dollars of damage to large agricultural operations. As a result of their destructive raids, elephants are often killed in retaliation. In recent years, human-elephant conflict has intensified. Crops have been destroyed and people killed, which has led to elephants being killed in retaliation. Government figures indicate that, on average, around 500 people and 100 elephants are killed each year in India because of human-elephant conflict.  This is happening now across the country . Even in  places like MP and Chattisgarh where they are expanding their base,  a number of incidents of retaliatory killing are reported.

Also readMore Questions  On Cheetah Project in Kuno

  WWF said that Poaching rates are currently increasing because the Asian middle class fuel demand despite the fact that there is a worldwide ban on ivory trade. Asian elephants are poached for their ivory tusks, but unlike their African cousins only male Asian elephants have tusks. Every poaching event further skews the sex ratio which constrains breeding rates for the species. There are an estimated 27,312 elephants, or nearly 55% of the species’ global population, as of the 2017 census. They can be found in India’s 32 elephant reserves, which are dispersed among ten elephant landscapes and 65,270 square kilometres of forested areas in northeast, central, northwest, and south India. However, unless the elephant reserve is located inside an already protected Reserve Forest or the Protected Area network, these reserve areas are not just for elephants. Elephant reserves in India are not legally protected ecosystems . Though Karnataka has  25 %  of India’s elephant population , an estimated 40% of Indian elephants and nearly 10% of the total population of wild Asian elephants reside within a 15,500 square mile area in the northeastern states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. WWF supports human-elephant conflict mitigation, biodiversity conservation, and awareness-building among local communities in two elephant habitats in the Eastern Himalayas, the North Bank Landscape and the Kaziranga Karbi-Anglong Landscape, and in the Nilgiris Eastern Ghats Landscape in South India. The states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh also witnessed 812 human and 314 elephant fatalities between 2011 and 2021, according to WWF-India.

By Deshdeep Saxena

Representative Images:  Courtsey TRUMPET, WII , TRAFFIC

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