Annual migration has begun; it’s expected to peak by March-end

It will be ‘paradise regained’ for hundreds of wild elephants as they reclaim the Kabini backwater. Their annual migration has just commenced and is expected to peak by March-end.

This year, there is sufficient water in the reservoir and the backwater. Last year, the prolonged drought and incessant release of water to save standing crops resulted in very low water-level in the backwater. As a result, innumerable animals died of thirst and starvation.

Consequently, wild animals deserted the Kabini in large numbers. Though elephants remained around the backwater, their number was less.

D. Rajkumar of the Wildlife Conservation Foundation told The Hindu that as many as 54 elephants aged between nine and 14 had died in Bandipur last year because of this. “Post-mortem reports in almost all cases showed the presence of mud in elephants’ stomachs, as they had tried to dig out water-holes and eaten dollops of mud with little bit of moisture in them to survive,” he said.

‘Natural phenomenon’

H.C. Kantharaj, director of Bandipur Tiger Reserve, felt that wildlife deaths during droughts was a natural phenomenon that served to weed out the weak and ensure that only the fittest survived.

Speaking to The Hindu, he said that on certain days during the peak of the migration season, one could find 800 to 1,000 elephants on both the Bandipur and Nagarahole sides of the Kabini backwater. These numbers vary, depending on the availability of fodder in other parts of the forests, but one can easily spot over 200 elephants during this period.

In addition to elephants, herbivores such as gaur (Indian bison), and spotted deer can be seen.

“These are migratory herds that congregate during summer and disperse after the onset of monsoon,” Mr. Kantharaj added.

Abutting both the Nagarahole and Bandipur national parks, the Kabini backwater is where the elephants retreat to in the summer, when food and water in other parts of the forest run out.

The peak of migration is usually in the last weeks of March through April, as the backwater is not only a source of water but also has new grass for herbivores to feed on.

“We are hopeful that the backwater will support a large number of elephants this season,” said Mr. Rajkumar.

More In: Karnataka | National