Elephant corridor in India finally free of human habitation

A highly endangered Asian elephant tusker in Rajaji National Park, Uttarakhand State, India.The International Fund for Animal Welfare’s partner in South Asia, Wildlife Trust of India, is happy to announce that a task initiated in 2005 has yielded a conservation milestone to celebrate.

IFAW-WTI, with state Forest departments in India, identified 88 elephant corridors in a 2005 publication titled Right of Passage (that number has since increased to 101 due to burgeoning population pressures on the natural ecosystem and the developmental needs associated with people).

Back then, WTI had started the slow process of securing prioritized elephant corridors through four different models:

  1. buying land and handing it over to the forest department,
  2. creating village reserve forests,
  3. relocating villages voluntarily, and
  4. using government assistance to create corridors.

So when WTI announced that the Chilla-Motichur Elephant Corridor, a vital habitat linkage between the Chilla and Motichur Ranges of Rajaji Tiger Reserve in the northern state of Uttarakhand  was free of human habitation, it was nothing short of a conservation milestone. Twelve years of painstaking ground work, with the support of the government of Uttarakhand, resulted in moving the final householders out of the corridor to a safe location and giving the right of passage to elephants.

The securement of this corridor marks the culmination of a long process during which the Uttarakhand Forest Department and Government of Uttarakhand worked with WTI to build a consensus for voluntary relocation among the inhabitants of Khand Gaon III, a village based within the corridor. The villagers have now all been relocated to new homes in Lalpani, Rishikes, on land provided by the government.

The securing of the Chilla-Motichur corridor is bound to provide an impetus to the larger campaign of the Asian Elephant Alliance, a partnership between Elephant Family, IFAW, IUCN Netherlands, Wildlife Trust of India and World Land Trust.

Results are slow but encouraging; five corridors have been secured with more in process.

We know that victories such as this are bringing the topic of elephant corridors back into the mainstream narrative for landscape conservation.

--RGC

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