Construction of buildings in the traditional elephant migratory corridors resulting in obstruction of their path is a major factor contributing to human-animal conflict in Coimbatore, according to G. Sivasubramanian, Assistant Manager, Western Ghats Landscape Programme, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – India.
Addressing the monthly ‘Enviromeet’ organised in the city on Sunday by Osai, a non-governmental association involved in environmental conservation and protection activities, he said that while the reasons for these incidents varied across the State, there were some common underlying causes such as loss of elephant habitation due to development activities.
Delivering a presentation on the ‘human-elephant conflict facts and solutions,’ elephant habitats in Valparai and Gudalur have become fragmented leaving them without a contiguous territory.
However, the issues were unique in Coimbatore region where 70 per cent of the forest was in the slopes. This narrow corridor which connected Sathyamangalam Forest to Kerala’s Silent Valley in Mannarkadu and was also a traditional migratory path for elephants. Any disturbance in this stretch results in elephants venturing out of forest.
“In the past 20 years, nearly 30 buildings such as Government and private educational institutions have been constructed in this stretch alone. Whether these buildings have got the necessary approval from the Hill Area Conservation Authority is open to question.”
Mr. Sivasubramanian said that another issue was rapid urbanisation that was driving up land value in hill areas. This was leading to traditional farmers selling their land. The new inhabitants were unable to co-exist with the elephants as they lack the knowledge of the farmers.
Also, the quality of the forest had degraded due to the spread of invasive weeds and this issue also had to be looked at.
Elephants behaviour has also changed over the years as they are being stressed out due to constant human interference in what was once their territory. These issues require not just forest department’s efforts but others including Agriculture, Revenue, Highways, Electricity, Mining and Police also, he added. President of Osai K. Kalidasan, secretary Avainayagan, noted writer S. Venugopal, eminent personality Covai Gnani spoke.