A Journey to the Elephant Corridor of Garo Hills, India
In November 2004 Kirsty Burgess, the World Land Trust's Projects Co-ordinator, made a two-week visit to the Elephant Corridor, located in the wilds of the Garo Hills, where Kipling set the scene for his classic, The Jungle Book. Here is Kirsty's story:
Project background – Saving India's endangered elephants
The Elephant Corridor Project, launched by the World Land Trust (WLT) in September 2003, aims to connect two existing nature reserves in order to help the survival of the endangered Indian elephant, a species sensitive to forest fragmentation.
A year later, a considerable amount of the necessary funds have been raised and the project, managed by WLT partners – Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), is now in full swing.
The Wild Lands of Garo Hills
During my visit to the corridor, I was able to appreciate just how appropriate the name “Wild Lands” was to the corridor location. Accompanied by Dr. Sandeep Tiwari (WTI Senior Programmes Officer), it took me a full days drive from the nearest airport to arrive at Bagmara, the closest small town, followed by two hours drive on roads of very poor condition the next day. But it was worth it. The Garo Hills are incredibly picturesque, and with around 80% forest cover, and there is hot steaming jungle as far as the eye can see, filled with calls of many birds and home to an abundance of other wildlife, including the Indian Elephant, Leopard and primates such as the Hoolock Gibbon and Capped Langur.
“There was a splash and a trample, and the rush of running water, and Kala Nag strode through the bed of a river, feeling his way at each step. Above the noise of the water, as it swirled round the elephant's legs, Little Toomai could hear more splashing and some trumpeting both upstream and down—great grunts and angry snortings, and all the mist about him seemed to be full of rolling, wavy shadows.”
Extract from “Toomai of the Elephants” – a short story from “The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling.
Elephant river crossings – as described in The Jungle Book
What is particularly important about the area of forest that WLT is protecting, is that it contains one of only four crossing points for elephants along the Simsang River, the length of which almost divides the Garo Hills in two. Most of the river has steep rocky sides, which are impossible for an elephant to manoeuvre. In contrast, the Elephant Corridor has gentle sandy beaches on both sides of the river, where elephants can cross easily, as did Kala Nag, the seventy year-old elephant from The Jungle Book.
Developing alternatives to slash-and-burn
Walking through the corridor site, I was able to see first hand the damage that is being caused by “slash-and-burn” farming, but also how local people living within the corridor depend on this type of agriculture for survival. The projects directly involves the Arthika Village, a community who WTI plan to assist in developing sustainable incomes such as bee or poultry keeping, with the end goal to reduce their dependence on the natural forests. Through discussions with WTI and local forestry officials, it became apparent that although the Garo Hills boasts such a wealth of forest resources, now is the time to put such initiatives into practice – before the inevitable population growth causes the irreversible loss of precious habitats.
The work in Garo Hills will continue – with your help
I also visited other protected areas within Meghalaya and Assam, including the nearby Balpackram National Park, and further afield, Kaziranga National Park, where I was stunned by the numbers and variety of wildlife present.
" I feel privileged to have been given such an in-depth view of the impressive work being carried out by WTI, and am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time and form good relations with Dr. Tiwari and his colleagues."
Kirsty Burgess, WLT
To save India's endangered elephants your help is still needed. Funds are required to ensure that the Elephant Corridor is protected and fully restored to a flourishing habitat for wildlife. – Initiatives such as the Elephant Corridor are essential in assuring the survival of its species.
More Information on the Elephant Corridor Project
To learn more about the India project visit the main project page: Help Save the Indian Elephants.
The Jungle Book in Garo Hills
Read the full story "Toomai of the Elephants" from The Jungle Book here.