Our mission at World Land Trust (WLT) is to save threatened habitats by buying land, leasing land and working with communities to help them manage wild land sustainably. However, each piece of land has its own conservation value and so we have several approaches to achieving our goal: saving forests in direct danger of deforestation to protect habitat and lock away carbon; purchasing land to create reserves; and targeting pockets of land that link together protected areas – wildlife corridors.
Since the parcels of land that form the corridors are often much smaller than the other habitats we aim to secure, and more expensive than our ‘Buy an Acre’ projects, why do we put so much emphasis on them?
A buffer against climate change
Havens of habitat are created by reserves, but if populations are isolated within these pockets of protection the future of the species is still at risk of extinction through inbreeding. Inbreeding narrows the diversity of genes within a species, which increases the prevalence of genetic disorders but also cripples their ability to adapt to changing conditions. This is the basis of one of two means of defence wildlife corridors provide species against climate change. With a diverse array of genes, natural selection is able to favour traits which are better adapted for the changing conditions many ecosystems are facing. Furthermore, by enabling populations to move to higher altitudes and latitudes where temperatures are cooler, corridors can decelerate the rate at which climate change forces animals to adapt.
Last year’s Big Match Fortnight Appeal saved a corridor of cloud forest ranging in altitude between 1,400 and 3,400 metres above sea level. The Forests in the Sky corridor now enables Ecuadorian wildlife to migrate to higher altitudes. Not only that, but as it created a pathway between two national parks between the Andes and the Amazon in Ecuador it actually establishes a landscape for Andean wildlife which encompasses of almost 2 million acres (737,472 hectares) with altitudes from 900 to 5,319 metres above sea level.
Securing entire landscapes
The Elephant Corridor Appeal, the focus of this year’s Big Match Fortnight, will also secure a much larger landscape for elephants than the precise area of land the corridor occupies. The Mudahalli Elephant Corridor unites the 141,160 hectare (348,814 acre) Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve with the 54,000 hectare (133,437 acre) Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve, varying from 600 to 1,649 metres above sea level. Additionally, this is one of two corridors connecting the mountain ranges- the Western Ghats, which run from the Gujarat state in the north-western corner of India to the southern tip, and the Eastern Ghats, which range from the Orissa state in the north-east of India. The two colossal mountain ranges meet at the border of the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states, where Mudahalli is situated.
The other issue at the heart of the Elephant Corridor Appeal is human-elephant conflict. The population in India is growing by 1-2 per cent each year, and was last estimated to be about 1.3 billion. This rapid growth rate means the expansion of towns, agriculture, cities and roads create manmade barriers across migration paths that animals such as elephants have been using for centuries to find new sources of food. This fragmentation of natural habitat is not limited to India. In 2013, WLT’s first Big Match Fortnight appeal raised funds for a wildlife corridor in one of the most critically endangered habitats in the world: the rainforests of Malaysian Borneo, home of the Bornean Orang-utan. Due to land clearance for oil palm plantations, the habitat of the Bornean Orang-utan is barely recognisable, forcing these great apes to live in ever shrinking ‘safe’ areas. WLT’s Borneo Rainforest Appeal was a huge success, raising one million pounds to buy highly sought-after land to create a forested corridor for orang-utans along the north bank of the Kinabatangan River.
How can you help?
Corridors are the keys to landscapes, as they open up access to much larger areas for wildlife by creating a connected network of reserves in regions which are fragmented by deforestation, towns and roads. WLT is aiming to help secure the future of another keystone species in danger of extinction under the shadow of ever-increasing human developments with this year’s Elephant Corridor Appeal.
Help us ensure their right to safe passage through the paths their ancestors have used for centuries. Donate to the Elephant Corridor Appeal today and your donation will be matched, so your support will go twice as far.
Donate with or you can donate via text, send BMFE16 with an amount (up to £10) to 70070