Jumbos skip waterholes in Karnataka sanctuaries

Study reveals that rivers and streams are their favourite hauntsin Karnataka national parks. Photo: M. A. Sriram  

With the elephant population relatively stable and reaching saturation point in many reserves, the focus had shifted to habitat management – that is, creation of water and food sources within National Parks to prevent elephants from venturing to the veritable buffet of cultivated crops that lie in the plains outside.

However, do elephants frequent these spots? A study by researchers from the National Centre for Biological Sciences and Wildlife Conservation Society point to the contrary.


The study focussed on nearly 1,850 sq-km area of the Bandipur and Nagarahole National Parks which spend up to 30 per cent of their annual budgets to create artificial waterholes. The parks are a part of the 6,000-sq-km Nilgiri biosphere which supports the single largest Asian elephant population in the world (estimated at more than 6,000 elephants.)

Man-elephant conflict

With man-elephant conflict frequently reported on the fringes of these forests, habitat manipulation was touted as way to increase the forest’s capacity to hold more elephants.

Though more than 650 waterholes have been created within the two tiger reserves – to provide water during the dry seasons – researchers have found that elephants continue to be found in large numbers along natural streams and rivers.

The study finds that elephants are on an average of 16 times more likely to be found near rivers and streams rather than waterholes that were created.

“Flowing water for elephants allows for riparian vegetation, shade, bamboo for food. What this shows is that there is no point creating water holes when natural streams are already present. Artificial ponds must be created only when there is no other source of water nearby,” says Varun R. Goswami from Centre of Wildlife Studies, who co-authored the study that was published in the Journal of Zoology.

What this also means is that hydroelectric and dam projects upstream – for instance, in the case of these reserves, the proposed hydroelectric and river diversion projects planned upstream in the Western Ghats – will have an effect on the elephants inside the national park limits.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 12:56:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/jumbos-skip-waterholes-in-karnataka-sanctuaries/article7862411.ece

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