TAMIL NADU

Human-elephant conflicts increased with deforestation, finds study

There seemed to be a higher prevalence of problematic human-elephant interactions in areas where deforestation was most intense, researchers said.

There seemed to be a higher prevalence of problematic human-elephant interactions in areas where deforestation was most intense, researchers said.  

Habitats that allowed wildlife movement cut off

Changing land use patterns have destroyed large portions of private forests since 1960, cutting off habitats that allowed the movement of wildlife between the different parts of the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve (NBR) and the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary. This has resulted in an increase in the frequency of problematic human-elephant “interactions” in areas most affected by deforestation, a study has found.

The study, titled ‘Deforestation Increases Frequency of Incidents with Elephants’, published in Tropical Conservation Science , a scientific journal, analyses 624 recorded incidents involving humans and elephants in the Kodagu and Hassan districts in Karnataka over a three-year period between 2008 and 2011, superimposed on maps that tracked changing land use patterns.

The authors of the paper, Jean-Philippe Puyravaud, Sanjay Gubbi, H. C. Poornesha and Priya Davidar, have analysed the change in land use patterns over an area measuring 45,710 sq. km., encompassing the landscapes of the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, Nagarhole National Park, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, where an estimated 6,000 Asian elephants live.

The researchers have noted that since 1960, forest and scrub cover has reduced by 6,761 sq. km., while there has been a corresponding increase in the “agricultural village mosaic” by 7,123 sq. km. in “non-protected” areas, which were once forests but have since been been converted for agricultural and commercial use, and 857 sq. km. in the “protected areas” surrounding Gudalur in the Nilgiris and Wayanad in Kerala.

The lead author of the paper, Jean-Philippe Puyaravaud told The Hindu that the rate of deforestation over a 50-year period averaged about 0.85% each year, severing the link between the protected areas of the NBR and the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary.The researchers noted that there seemed to be a higher prevalence of problematic human-elephant interactions where deforestation was the most intense. Due to the changing landscape, driven primarily by agriculture, elephant populations are being restricted to protected forests. The researchers believe that as elephants have to move between increasingly fragmented landscapes, they are more likely to come into contact with human populations.

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