India’s economy is growing and its burgeoning population currently stands at more than 1.25 billion. As a consequence, wildlife habitats across the country are shrinking. Elephants and other large mammals using traditional migration routes are increasingly in conflict with humans.
WLT and WTI's conservation work in India aims to safeguard a network of forest corridors that will enable Indian Elephants and other animals, such as tigers, to move safely between protected areas, avoiding human-wildlife conflict and protecting continuous critical wildlife habitat.
Ensuring the survival of ‘flagship’ species like elephants and tigers requires the protection of the entire habitat, which means that the corridors will also benefit other wildlife.
WLT is funding Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) to protect strategic areas within identified elephant migration routes, thereby securing wildlife corridors between larger protected areas.
In a country with more than a billion people, it is vital that any conservation initiative involves local communities and gains their support. The WLT-WTI Elephant Corridors benefit not only wildlife but also villagers by reducing human-wildlife conflict.
In some wildlife corridors WLT and WTI work to ensure villagers affected by human-wildlife conflict are voluntarily relocated to a new home where they can live safely away from the threat of elephants and tigers.
In other corridors the project also provides finance and expertise to create alternative livelihoods to ‘slash-and burn’ agriculture, which has led to the rapid depletion of natural forests.
WTI has identified 101 elephant corridors. These have been prioritised according to their conservation importance and feasibility of protection.To date WLT has helped safeguard three priority corridors - Siju-Rewak Corridor and Rewak-Emangre Corridor, both in Meghalaya, and Tirunelli-Kudrakote Corridor in Kerala.
A fourth corridor, Mudahalli, is the focus of WLT's Elephant Corridor Appeal, the Trust's major appeal for 2016. The appeal aims to raise £750,000 to protect and extend the Mudahalli Corridor, reducing human-wildlife conflict and protecting the many species that use the elephant's migration routes.
India is home to 60 per cent of the remaining Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) population making their survival in India critical to the survival of the species as a whole.
Other species protected by these corridors include: Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris), Gaur (Bos gaurus) (Indian Bison), Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra), Bonnet Macaque (Macaca radiata), Dhole (Cuon alpinus) (Indian Wild Dog), Grey Langur (Semnopithecus dussumieri), Indian Leopard (Panthera pardus fusca), Nilgiri Langur (Trachypithecus johnii), Sambar Deer (Cervus unicolor), Sloth Bear (Ursus ursinus), Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) and Himalayan Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus).
Habitat loss leading to fragmentation is a serious threat to elephants in India and results in a reduction of natural food resources and escalation of human-elephant conflict.
Reasons for habitat loss include the expansion of agriculture, development, and other human activity encroaching on existing elephant corridors.
Large animals like elephants, need huge areas in which to roam and feed. If protected areas are not large enough, elephants are likely to go outside the area in search of food elsewhere.
This often results in conflicts with humans, when elephants raid or destroy crops and damage houses.