Elephant distribution in Western Ghats limited by human presence: study

The findings of the study by the Wildlife Conservation Society have been published in the international scientific journal ‘PLoS One’.— Photo: M.A. Sriram  

A new scientific study on elephants in the Western Ghats landscape has indicated that their distribution was limited by human disturbance more than ecological factors.

The study was carried out by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), India Programme, which said that human footprint limits elephant distribution in the Western Ghats.

A WCS release said it found that human presence played a key role in determining where elephants were found, much more than environmental attributes.

Devcharan Jathanna, lead author of the study, said only 64 per cent of the 21,000 km2 of the ‘elephant habitat’ in the landscape was occupied by elephants. The study underscores the need for strict regulations to secure this critical landscape. The WCS said the research establishes a reliable protocol to study elephant distribution - one that can be used by governmental and non-governmental agencies engaged in elephant conservation throughout their range.

The study was conducted by Devcharan Jathanna, K. Ullas Karanth, N. Samba Kumar, Krithi K. Karanth and Varun R. Goswami of WCS India. who mapped elephant distribution across the 38,000 km2 Malnad landscape. The paper was published in the international scientific journal “PLoS One”, the release added. Underlining the importance of the study, the authors said across India, little reliable information exists on the status of the Asian elephant populations. “Without accurate information on elephant spatial distribution or population size, it is impossible to effectively conserve the species, particularly in the face of increasing habitat loss, conflict with humans and poaching”, according to the WCS.

Ullas Karanth, Director for Science – Asia, WCS, and co-author of the study, said the methodology was a vast improvement over the earlier methods and was easily applicable over large landscapes in addition to being reliable.

Commenting on the implications of the study for conservation, the authors said the findings underscore the importance of limiting disturbances such as illegal hunting, cattle grazing, forest product and biomass extraction as well as habitat fragmentation arising from local and large-scale economic development. “Given that the landscape supports over 10.2 million people and is undergoing rapid economic growth, there is urgent need to provide more strictly protected enclaves for elephants across their distributional range in this landscape”, said the authors.

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 12:09:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/elephant-distribution-in-western-ghats-limited-by-human-presence-study/article7465969.ece

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