Dec. 21, 2007 More than one thousand wild elephants have been given a right of passage today, with the safeguarding of a wildlife corridor that links two reserves in Karnataka, Southern India.
Elephant corridors are narrow strips of land that allow elephants to move from one habitat patch to another. There are 88 identified elephant corridors in India. The country is home to an estimated 25,000 wild elephants.
The E-D corridor is a narrow strip of land (0.5 km wide and 2km long) that is crucial to the local elephant population as it links two forested areas cut off from each other by deforestation and agricultural land. A highway also runs through the corridor connecting human settlements to the north and south, which threatens the ability of elephants to move safely between the protected areas for foraging and breeding.
The land was handed over by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) to forest officials in a ceremony in Bangalore – the first time land has been bought by a non-profit wildlife organisation and signed over to the government to protect the habitat of the endangered Asian elephant.
Vivek Menon, Executive Director of WTI and elephant biologist, said: "This is a great step forward for elephant conservation in India, and a model I hope other wildlife groups will follow. One of the greatest threats facing Asian elephants today is the shrinking and fragmentation of their habitat. Protecting corridors that link these "inland islands" is vital to ensuring the species’ survival."
A formal MOU signed between the Karnataka government and WTI transfers the land, known as the Edayargalli-Doddasampige (E-D) corridor, to the Forest Department. In return for the title deeds, forest officials will maintain the corridor as a safe passage for elephants. The agreement brings the corridor officially into the existing Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple (BRT) Wildlife Sanctuary, improving the ability of forest guards to protect the strip of land. The 25.5 acres of land was privately purchased by IFAW in 2005 to ensure a viable habitat was protected from future development. WTI field staff will monitor the usage of the corridor by wildlife and ensure the movement of elephants is not hindered.
Fred O’Regan, President of IFAW, said: "The E-D corridor in Karnataka is also home to wild tigers and leopards, so by protecting the habitat of elephants we are also able to provide safe passage for other endangered species and wildlife in the area."
Elephant numbers have dropped over 50 per cent in the last twenty years. Today, there are approximately 35,000 to 45,000 Asian elephants remaining in the wild. The major threats to elephant populations within Asia are poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation.
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