Gaj Yatra: Spreading awareness about elephant corridors
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Gaj Yatra: Spreading awareness about elephant corridors

November 4, 2017

By Somashekar

In India there is a serious threat to elephant habitats due to human settlements. Persistent growth in the human population has infringed upon the thick wild habitats of elephants. Given that their migratory routes are cut off by human settlements, a campaign called ‘Gaj Yatra’ has begun to raise awareness about the contracting space for India’s wild elephants and their corridors.

‘Gaj Yatra’, which kicked off on Aug. 12 this year on World Elephant Day, will cover 12 elephant range States in India. This campaign, which is collaborated by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and other NGOs, will be the greatest campaign planned around India’s wildlife elephants. This campaign, which will run over a period of 15 months, is expected to pass through Karnataka in about a few weeks.

Karnataka, being the elephant capital of the country, has recorded the highest density of elephants according to the 2017 census. Elephants are found in 33 forest divisions. The results show an overall density of 0.67 elephants per square kilometre over a range of 8,976 square kilometres suggesting a total of 6,049 elephants.

The elephant density in Karnataka is mainly concentrated in the forests of Nagarahole Tiger Reserve (1.54 elephants per Sq. Km), Bandipur Tiger Reserve (1.13 elephants per Sq. Km) and Bhadra Tiger Reserve (1.12 elephants per Sq. Km).

Previously, with the intervention of Karnataka Forest Department, several acres of land was bought from private parties and included in the elephant corridor.  Experts also claim that in the past 16 years, only six corridors have been secured in Karnataka out of 11. Among these, 11 corridors that pass through Karnataka, four run within the State and the others inter-link with neighbouring States like Tamil Nadu and Kerala. According to experts, acquisition of 829.5 acres in Karnataka will secure the crucial passage for herds of elephants to pass through without any impediments.

Vanishing passages within the woods through which the elephant migrates without human disturbance is a major hindrance in the way of conservation.  Thus there is a huge concern to rehabilitate villagers which requires help from the government.

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There have been several incidents of elephant herds raiding farmlands and villages that fall in between their migratory routes. Experts assert that such human-elephant encounters to be the main cause of elephant deaths in India. Elephant experts have identified the need to protect these 101 corridors in the country to ensure a win-win situation for humans and elephants.

Catering to this encroachment of elephant corridors by humans, ‘Gaj Yatra’ aims to spread awareness about the problem that is plaguing Indian wildlife.

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