The degradation of forest habitat near Himalayan foothills is a complex challenge for biodiversity conservation. It is also driven by habitat loss, land use change over time and expanding human population. The resulting damage is considerable to paddy crops, human property by herd of tuskers. There are incidents of human being killed by wild elephants in Orissa and Mysore that finally people retaliate against losses. This trend in conflict has been increasing in Asia and Africa also. However Cambodia, Myanmar and Malaysia have large areas for elephant habitat. The vast evergreen forests of Sri Lanka, Southern India and Thailand are habitat of Asian elephant.
Assam has the highest number of wild elephants in India. The man-elephant conflict is on the rise in Assam. The conflict especially in Sonitpur District of Assam has intensified recently. It is a major threat to existence of elephants outside protected areas i.e. human-dominated landscapes. The Valparai plateau of Annamalai hills in southern Western Ghats also face the issue of conservation for elephants. There are scattered rainforest fragments with tea and coffee plantations. People compelled to live co-inhabitants with wildlife. Also elephant die because of uncontrolled illegal ivory poaching. Besides elephant fell victim to speeding train, poisoning and electrocution? There is no winner in this conflict. But it poses the greatest threat to natural world.
There are percentile equations associated with forest cover for loss of critical habitat threshold deforestation. A study on implications for landscape management are highly sought to mitigate further conflict around the world. A long time solutions for “habitat corridors” are needed to lessen impacts on local residents by linking existing reserves through reforestation. Also people and elephants are to share the landscape for maximum coexist. As the situation to be a bit messy, the forest department needs to prevent further encroachment to Assam forest reserves of Sonai-Rupai Wildlife Sanctuary and Nameri National Park.
Besides, there are other factors like elephant behaviour and human attitudes. The elephants need to travel at least 10-20 km a day. Since they are kept in protected areas they are bound to move in search of food and water. Nevertheless elephants move along their traditional corridor for migration. These migrations can have positive impact on ecology. They can help transform a Savannah into an Oasis. Elephants are herbivorous and eat anything vegetarian ranging from leaves, bark, twigs, shrubs and bushes, fruits, roots and flowers. As large animals, they need large quantities of food and feed mostly in the early morning and in the late evenings. When food resources are scarce the elephants will move into areas inhabited by humans. Because of the volume of food that they need, they tend to destroy crops and plantations and destroy water sources used by people. This leads to man-animal conflicts.
Could electric fencing meet with success to protect agricultural field? Do elephants raid on home for nutritional needs for minerals? Yes it happens in Manas National park, Assam where elephants are often served with salt as their favourite food. It also helps to protect forest guard posts. Tezpur is always in grip of elephant menace during crop harvesting. There were incidents of ECT elephant chasing team to safeguard Tezpur Air Force base until the construction of walls. As deer encroach on Tambaram runway, it fenced the wall from encroachment. India is planning Mumbai-Delhi-Kolkata rail route to fence for high speed train. There are growing incidents of elephant being killed by speeding train. Should Assam get such project to save elephants? Also Kaziranga being an important corridor, the diversion of national highway is to be considered seriously for protection our wildlife and natural habitats.
There is an urgent call to take action for this grave situation. Animal activists, conservationists and all community should come together and put on end to this cruelty towards animals. The gruesome killing continues despite being listed in Schedule 1 species status under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972. We must pledge to protect this wonderful species on the verge of extinction as man-elephant conflict sees no solution. Wildlife experts feel that territorial animals do not have enough space within reserves and their prey do not have enough fodder to thrive on. This is forcing the wild elephants to move out and venture close to human habitation in search of food.