Elephant Corridors in India

The World Land Trust aims to protect and sustainably manage natural ecosystems of the world, to conserve their biodiversity with emphasis on threatened habitats and endangered species. Developing partnerships with local individuals, communities and organisations helps to engage support and commitment among the people who live in project areas. Raising awareness of the need for conservation, leads to improved understanding, and generate support through education, information and fundraising.

 

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The Project

After much research, the Wildlife Trust of India has published a comprehensive list of 88 corridors throughout India that are critical to the long term survival of the Asian Elephant. Corridors comprise the unprotected lands between fragments of protected areas. These areas are increasingly human dominated, resulting in high levels of human-wildlife conflict (destruction of crops, buildings and even human life). Securing the corridors involves sensitising local communities to the option of voluntarily relocating outside the conflict zones to safer areas, with their own land and improved housing. It would also have great conservation value, preventing further fragmentation of the continuous forest habitat by encroachment from urban areas, as well as providing continued refuge for tiger, elephant, sambar, marsh crocodile, gharial and over 575 species of bird. This will be done through:
  • Prioritising seven corridors in Corbett National Park, Uttaranchal State
  • Initiating a sensitisation programme to introduce the concept of establishing elephant corridors to local communities and key conservationists
  • Successfully securing the highest priority corridor by December 2011
 
Destruction of crops
Destruction of crops

The Update

Seven corridors were prioritised in April 2010. From these, one corridor stood out as needing priority action to alleviate severe conflict between 400 families in 3 villages, and wildlife including Tigers, Leopards and Wild Boar which use the Elephant corridor. This corridor - the Chilkiya-Kota corridor -is 5.5 square kilometres of land between 2 protected areas. It is used extensively by wildlife passing between the 2 protected areas, and people living and farming in the area. Dialogue with the local communities progressed slowly until October 2010 when a series of tiger attacks on people sadly led to the death of 7 people in or immediately adjacent to the corridor. The local community has now confirmed that they are in favour of relocation. A site for the communities to be relocated to is now being sought, in full consultation with them, and it is hoped that they, and the wildlife in the remaining corridor will be fully protected in 2011/12. To quote the Wildlife Trust of India’s Executive Director Vivek Menon, ‘‘These large animals need space, and they will kill you in order to get that space. I have only one solution - give them space’. To watch a short amateur video of a wild tiger passing by people in an elephant corridor click here.

Following EOCA's donation of €30,000, a generous donor to the World Land Trust promised to match funds and so this has bought the total support received and leveraged from EOCA to €60,000.

Further Information

Since the above project got underway, The World Land Trust, have come up with an exquisite way in which to fund conservation. They, together with ethical coloured gemstones mining company, Gemfields, together with Jaguar Land Rover and the Gemological Institute of America (GIA India), have collaborated with ten of India’s top jewellery designers to create a unique ‘pop up’ collection of bespoke Zambian emerald jewellery.

Following the success of ‘Emeralds for Elephants’ in London in the summer of 2010, the aim of this collection is to create awareness and raise crucial funds for the conservation initiatives of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) for the Asian Elephant in India. The headline piece of the collection is a Ganesha sculpture with a 638 carat Gemfields Zambian emerald created by renowned artist, Arzan Khambatta. The collection was launched in July and will close with a Grand Auction at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai on 14 October 2011.

The World Land Trust has also produced a short film about the elephant-human conflict which you can see here.

Stop press:  The auction was an amazing success.  Gemfields' 'Emeralds for Elephants' collection raised a staggering $750,000 at auction with $150,000 of the proceeds going to the World Land Trust and Wildlife Trust of India’s conservation project in India.

Update November 2011:
WLT has held regular meetings with various government officials involved in the project, and good progress on the strategy for relocating communities has been made.

The Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) has been monitoring animal usage of the corridor, and found it to be particularly high, especially the higher than average presence of elephant and tiger. This is symptomatic of the importance of the corridor as other natural habitat has been depleted and fenced off through the development of tourist resorts along the road, meaning that larger numbers of animals are forced to use this remaining corridor.

In addition to this, analysis of the Kosi River course has identified further loss to the corridor due to changes in the course of the river, resultant floods and erosion.

A list of families living within the corridor villages has been undertaken, a challenging and time consuming task since the original list had not been updated since 1984. Since there are too many villagers to move all at once, 25 families, living on the outskirts of one of the villages who are occupying key land for conservation, have been identified. Their relocation would free up one kilometre of water's edge for animals, in an area where the river is also shallow enough to allow animals to cross and provide access to fresh grasses. As the frequency of tiger attacks and flooding have been steadily increasing, the villagers are ready to move as soon as possible, and have requested that they be given land rather than compensation for their voluntary relocation. Alternative land has been identified and welcomed by the villagers. It is of limited biodiversity value, but will provide the villagers with all their needs. WLT and WTI are working closely with the government to ensure this happens as smoothly and quickly as possible.

January 2016
In January 2016, we received the devastating news that this project had run into major difficulties and completion was no longer feasible.  More land was being asked for than was previously agreed, and politicisation of the land purchase into non-agreed areas forced the World Land Trust (WLT) to cancel all plans for the Corbett Corridor.

This was a massive shock to everyone involved, but WLT is now working with its partners on the ground to identify alternative corridors across India, where risk of politicisation is lower.  The work carried out here has been invaluable in helping the organisation understand processes and risks, and it remains committed to driving forward elephant corridor implementation elsewhere.
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