BHUBANESWAR: Climate change, among a host of other factors, is driving elephants from their core habitats to non-forest areas in eastern Indian states.Member of National Board for Wildlife and elephant expert Prof Raman Sukumar on Wednesday said, drought appears to be a major reason responsible for the elephants moving out of forests in Jharkhand to West Bengal.
Prof Sukumar, who was here to attend the expert committee of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on man-elephant conflict, said the elephants have found better foraging options outside their core forest habitats which is sending them from one state to another.
“The greenery outside the forest areas, social forestry and crop cultivation have appeared lucrative to these intelligent and adaptive animals. This has led to the changes in movement pattern and distribution of elephants in the Central India landscapes,” the NBWL member said. The states of Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Bihar have been reporting increased man-elephant conflict. In fact, the conflict scenario is the severest in this part of the country.
Prof Sukumar likens it to a “super-market” pattern. “The habitats outside the forests are like a supermarket for the elephants where they have a variety of options. This could be responsible for their change in behaviour,” he said.The elephant expert, who is scheduled to submit his study on carrying capacity of elephant corridors in Odisha, said this change in behaviour of elephants is felt much more in eastern India although it is happening in varying degrees in other parts of the country too.
Adding to the problems are linear infrastructure projects like irrigation, mining and rapid industrial projects have constricted the movement of elephants. Prof Sukumar said, the situation is extremely challenging. Apart from focussing on landscapes where viable habitats exist, enrichment of forests in maintaining the elephants in concentrative pockets should be emphasised.
He also called for stronger measures like translocation as well as population control, if the need arises. “One can not rule out measures such as capture of elephants for population control measures. Similarly, translocation of jumbos can also be considered,” he said.