Asian elephants are facing extinction in the wild throughout its range of distribution. Due to fast growing human populations, the elephant use areas throughout the Southeast Asia have been shrinking very rapidly. Most of the wild elephant populations now are small and isolated as their migratory routes been cut off by human settlements and activities. As a result of their isolation, though the animal do manage to breed successfully, suffer from a depleted gene pool because of in-breeding. Asian elephants live in the region of the world with the densest human population that is growing at a rate of over 3% per year. Confrontations between elephants and people are thus inevitable. The growing conflict between humans and elephants is one of the major challenges and of highest conservation priorities as elephants can be a major destructive force to land owners and users. Fragmented habitats have not only exposed the animals to the risk of being killed by human being, but also have exposed the human population to large scale confrontation with settlement coming on their way of movement.
The situation is almost similar in all the Asian Elephant bearing countries as most these countries are either developing or underdeveloped and they are under ever growing pressure from industrialization and urbanization. The northeastern region of India is one of such remaining strongholds of Asian Elephants, which is facing primary threat of rapid habitat shrinkage and poaching for ivory trade.
The elephant populations in the northeastern region are distributed in both north and south bank of mighty river Brahmaputra and the Assam as the major state sharing main portion of it. The current elephant population of Assam is above 5000 distributed in National Parks, Sanctuaries, Reserve Forests and in un-classed forest areas.
Capacity Building program on Asian Elephant Conservation:
Visit to Sri Lanka to study the effective Human-Elephant Conflicts Mitigation Projects :
A study team of 3 elephant conservationist from Dolphin Foundation had visited Sri Lanka and studied 5 different projects which have successfully managing Human-Elephant Conflicts (HEC) in Sri Lanka and had exchanged ideas and got acquainted with the techniques being used by that country. The organization will try these new techniques in various HEC areas of India, mainly in the northeast region to mitigate wide-scale elephant depredation. Based on the study, new strategies are being developed for implementation through the future Asian elephant conservation projects to be undertaken by the Foundation.
The population in the north bank of Brahmaputra sharing their common habitat with the adjoining Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan parts. Since historical times the North Bank area, lies north of the river Brahmaputra in the states of Assam & Arunachal Pradesh, provided a very good habitat for the Asian Elephants which originally had a continuous belt of rich forest cover. A significantly large population of Asian Elephants occurs here and is one of the most important sites for the Asian elephant conservation. It contains the largest elephant population in NE India and among the five largest elephant populations in Asia. The north bank landscape may contain up to 10% of the species’ total population. But gradually with the passage of time this continuous belt of forest is getting fragmented and reduced which is posing a great threat to the elephant habitats of the landscape. The primary factor, which can be made accountable for this, is the ever increasing human population and a resulting increase in their spatial extent of influence & impact. The present scenario is such that, if the remaining forests is not protected and conserved with immediate affect the elephants and the rich biodiversity of this landscape may very soon become a part of history. The many areas of the north bank, specially entire Sonitpur district and areas adjoining to Manas National Park have become the most human-elephant conflict sites of the world. The major elephant corridors have been lost which earlier facilitate the animals’ seasonal and periodic movement in the entire landscape. The traditionally strong support for their conservation is no longer easy to maintain among today’s ever increasing human population and its demand for productive lands. All these lead to wide scale human-elephant conflict. In earlier years such depredations by wild elephants were confining only in the peripheral areas (forest fringe villages) that to for a very short duration of time. But now due the complete destruction of their important habitat and route of their migration, the elephants are compelled to stay for a longer period wherever they find suitable. They started coming down to the areas far beyond the fringe villages, up to the nearby towns and other developed areas. As a consequence of depredation in such areas, continued for prolong period causing hardship to the people, which also has changed the attitude of the suffering people towards elephants to a negative direction. The affected people became unsympathetic and hostile towards the elephants. The purpose of wildlife conservation is always happened to be fragile by such outlook of the human population living near forest areas. More importantly, Govt. has no suitable provision of compensation for such types of animal depredation including crop destruction. The people of the region are generally very poor and depend mainly on agriculture. Most importantly, they have practice of raising only one crop(paddy) in a year So, this become a question of bread & butter when their only crop is destroyed by wild elephant.
Dolphin Foundation has been working on elephant conservation in the region for last three years, manly on issues of Human-Elephant conflict, habitat lost and promotion of elephant conservation awareness. Presently, the Foundation is working in fringe and adjoining areas of Manas National Park with support from Asian Elephant Conservation Fund of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Asian Elephant conservation activities presently being carried out by Dolphin Foundation :
Asian Elephant Conservation Program in Manas National Park :
- Building capacity of the program associated people in anti-depredation and other survey procedures.
- Extensive study on the human- elephant conflicts in the fringe areas of western part of Manas National Park for developing a strategy to control the problem.
- Development and execution of an effective anti-depredation strategy (Elephant Raid Prevention System) in the fringe villages affected by elephant depredation.
1. Formation of anti-depredation groups in the affected fringe villages.
2. Anti-depredation groups were given necessary training on various methods of anti-depredation procedures involving experts.
3. Anti-depredation groups have been regularly provided with the necessary equipments like dragon lights, sounding devices etc.
GPS tracking and mapping of the all the raiding tracts of elephants coming out of the park to the neighboring areas.
Habitat surveys, identification and study of elephant corridors in the western and southwestern areas of Manas, which are presently under private ownership. The idea is to raise fund to purchase those land parcels so that these corridors are protected for the continuous use of the elephant population.
Small-scale community support program for the affected fringe villagers for creating goodwill and thereby to get them onboard the elephant conservation program – Installation of solar street lamps in the affected fringe villages.
Greening of the peripheral non-forest fringe areas of Manas by promoting tree plantation (Promotion of Community Forest), thereby to decrease the pressure of firewood and logwood off the elephant habitat of the Park.
1) Donation of seedlings of commercially important and fast growing species to the interested fringe villagers for plantation in their unused personal land.
2) Plantation of fast growing tree species in the unused public lands in the fringe village areas.
All together about 13000 seedling were donated to the villagers and 10000 seedlings were planted in the village areas involving school children and local NGOs under western range of Manas.
- Carrying out routine conservation awareness and education programs in the fringe areas of the park.Supporting local Forest Department/ Park Authority for strengthening elephant conservation.