800 acres secured for Indian Elephants in Garo Hills

 
Indian Elephant

Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the local communities of Garo Hills in north-eastern India have safeguarded an additional 800 acres of community lands vital for the migration of Indian Elephants.

This latest achievement is part of the Garo Green Spine, an ambitious project with the aim of protecting elephant habitat along the ‘backbone’ of the Garo Hills, creating an unbroken stretch of forest from Tura Peak, north of Nokrek National Park, to Balpakram National Park.

To date the project has saved nearly 7,000 acres, including the Siju-Rewak corridor (between Siju Wildlife Sanctuary and Rewak Forest Reserve) and the Rewak-Emangre corridor (between Rewak Reserve Forest and Emangre Reserve Forest).

Garo Hills landscape

The Garo Green Spine is an ambitious project with the aim of protecting elephant habitat along the ‘backbone’ of the Garo Hills © WTI/Sunil Kyarong

Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot

The Garo Green Spine Conservation project supports habitat protection across the Meghalaya elephant landscape, home to about 800-1,000 Indian Elephants which act as a flagship species of the project. The evergreen forests of the Garo Hills are also home to threatened mammals such as the Leopard, Pygmy Slow Loris, Pig-tailed Macaque and the Endangered Western Hoolock Gibbon. It is also home to three species of bear, which are all classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List: Sloth Bear, Asiatic Black Bear and Sun Bear.

Without conservation action, this habitat is threatened by jhum cultivation, where swathes of forest are cleared of trees and vegetation and burned to create potash, which increases the nutrient content of the soil temporarily, but devastates the ecological value of the forest.

Community land for conservation

Land secured under the Garo Green Spine project is placed under the community’s protection and designated as Village Reserve Forest (VRF) with the help of WTI, WLT and the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council.

“[WTI’s] success lies in their ability to work with the communities living in and around elephant habitat to ensure the best solutions for the people and the wildlife.”
Natalie Singleton, WLT

“WLT have supported WTI’s work in the Garo Hills for more than ten years,” says Natalie Singleton, Conservation Programme Coordinator at WLT. “Their success lies in their ability to work with the communities living in and around elephant habitat to ensure the best solutions for the people and the wildlife. This recent addition to the total area saved in the Garo Green Spine project is an excellent example with the original aim to secure 740 acres during 2017-18, which they have exceeded.”

“Ensuring communities receive equitable benefit from the project is of utmost importance which must be greater than the lost opportunity cost of the land they have set aside for conservation. WTI work closely with the Nokmas (chief) of villages in the Garo Green Spine to bring new areas under conservation protection, and will undertake projects to improve quality of life for local communities, such as the improvement of the Darichikgre road system.”

More information

WTI has identified over 100 elephant corridors across the whole of India and these are prioritised according to their conservation importance and feasibility of protecting them. Since 2003, WLT has supported the protection of four important corridors, most recently the Mudahalli corridor which was the focus of WLT’s Elephant Corridor Appeal in 2016.

The work on the Garo Green Spine project since 2015 has been supported by The Body Shop’s  Bio-Bridges mission, which committed to protecting and restoring 75 million square metres of habitat by 2020.

 

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