The India State of Forest Report 2013 released in 2014 stated that there has been a net decline of 627 sq kms in forest cover in north eastern states as compared to the last assessment conducted in 2011.
Due to the increasing fragmentation of forests and rising human-elephant conflict in India, five NGOs collaborated through a MoU to raise 20 million British pounds to protect 100 elephant corridors in India until 2025.
It was on Sunday, July 5 2015 that the fundraising event at Lancaster House in London was hosted by Their Royal Highnesses, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.
The five non-governmental organizations were Elephant Family, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), IUCN Netherlands, World Land Trust and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), united with a common goal under the umbrella of the Asian Elephant Alliance.
The signatories to the MoU were Vivek Menon, ED and CEO, WTI; Azzedine Downes, President and CEO, IFAW; Pieter Copper, Head of Strategy & Innovation, IUCN National Committee of The Netherlands (IUCN NL); Simon Lyster, Chair, World Land Trust; and Ruth Powys, CEO, Elephant Family.
With 100 elephant corridors documented by WTI in consultation with the forest departments, the project aimed to secure a safe passage for India’s elephants, which comprise approximately half of the world’s wild Asian elephant population.
Having worked assiduously to secure three of these corridors in the last decade, and some more in process, WTI’s Executive Director Vivek Menon said : “Five leading conservation organizations, 100 key elephant corridors but one goal; nothing pleases me more than the coming together of the global community in the fight for this endangered species. I am particularly pleased that Prince Charles who so wanted to see an Asian elephant last time he was in India, is present to grace this momentous occasion.”
Each year, India loses nearly 400 people and about 50 elephants in man-animal conflict due to ever shrinking habitat of the animal. While most of the tiger habitat falls within the protected area, only 22 per cent of elephant habitat has some kind of protection, which means that a majority of elephant population in the country is living around human dominated landscapes which have become hotbeds of human elephant conflict.
One of the key answers for mitigating conflict lies in securing corridors that facilitate movement of these animals from one fragmented habitat to another so that both humans and elephants can co-exist.
Ruth Powys, CEO of Elephant Family remembered their founder Mark Shand, who once said ‘if there is no magic or passion in life, there is no point in doing anything.’
This event had both by the bucket load; shining a multi-colored spotlight on the plight of Asia’s elephants. “With signing of this MoU, we stride closer to our target; raising the vital funds that support a modern day conservation and humanitarian solution that works – Elephant Corridors,” Ruth added.
WTI started its corridor securing project in 2001 and has since then secured three corridors in Karnataka, Kerala and Meghalaya. Considering how arduous resettlement and relocation is in India, it took years of negotiations for the WTI team to relocate villages falling within these corridors.
In the process, WTI worked out four model methods of securing corridors connecting Kaziranga with various reserve forests and Wildlife sanctuaries including major elephant populated areas of Karbi Anglong district.
The whole effort of the five organizations went in vain when due to some unknown reason the donor pull out from the endeavor and the fund released so far was take out. Associated Organizations, people enthusiastically engaged in field and at various levels received the shocker just after some odd span of time that the benefactor has turned antagonist
Nature devoted Karbi people settled in numerous locations of the proposed projects in elephant prosperous Karbi Anglong district and in the fringe of Kagiranga national park are still wondering where the so called elephant lovers who convinced them to relocate their ancestral land to protect Igner ( elephant in Karbi).
“ Lots of experts came to our village and educated us about ecology and environment, they made us aware how important it is to maintain nature’s equilibrium, we all agreed to shift our village for giving passage to elephant and end decade-old conflict with this animal. No one came since a long time they have just vanished, old legacy of men elephant is continuing” Sarsing Engleng village headman of a secluded village told this writer.
His earthy wisdom may make more sense than many high-sounding lectures on ele[phant conservation.