Promoting coexistence of humans and elephants in Anamalai Hills (literally “The Elephant Hills”), situated in the Western Ghats of southern India, has been the key objective of M. Ananda Kumar for over a decade. A wildlife biologist with the Nature Conservation Foundation, Kumar is a staunch believer in the benefits that involving local communities in conservation work can reap. Kumar’s work on human–elephant conflict resolution in the Ghats has been recognized with the Carl Zeiss Wildlife Conservation Award.
In an interview with me, Kumar speaks of the change that has been brought about in the attitude of people towards elephants—from hostile to tolerant.
Excerpts from the interview:
What threatens elephant survival in India?
Activities such as setting up of micro hydel projects, dams, power lines or roads in prime elephant habitats pushes these animals out of their habitat into neighbouring towns and villages. That leads to negative interactions between people and elephants, and is detrimental to the elephant population in the country.
Pollutants from oil spills, shipping activities and industrial effluents could be the reason for genetic damage in snails of Goa, research has found. The extent of genetic damage in snails could serve as a measure of the health of a marine ecosystem, it says.
A team of researchers collected snails of the species Morulagranulata from nine locations along the coast of Goa – a major tourism and seafood industry hotspot of India. The team learnt that the extent of damage in the genetic material (DNA) of these snails increased with rising levels of toxic pollutants along the coast.
“When toxic contaminants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are taken up by marine organisms, the snails will try to metabolize the contaminants for subsequent elimination. The toxins are degraded, ultimately converted into by-products and removed from the body,” explains A. Sarkar, lead author of the study at Global Enviro-Care, Goa. “But during their metabolism, reactive intermediate stages are formed, resulting in DNA strand breaks.”
Sarkar and co-workers used molecular biomarker techniques to assess breaks in the DNA isolated from snails and determined its integrity. They observed that DNA integrity reduced by as much as 56% at one of the most polluted of the chosen sites (Hollant) compared to the non-polluted, reference site (Arambol) located farther away from the industrial belt. They found the concentration of PAHs in sediments to be highest around Hollant (5.17 μg/g) and lowest at Arambol (1.65 μg/g) among all sites.