Ecologists have mapped Asian elephants in the Indian state of Karnataka down to the smallest forest administrative unit. The detailed map, which shows where elephants exist inside and outside protected areas, could help conservation planning and minimize human–elephant conflicts.
Karnataka has the largest population of Asian elephants (Elephasmaximus) in India. But recent decades have witnessed increased pressure on their habitat and clashes between people and the jumbos. A detailed map of elephant distribution is crucial to understand where humans should get priority, where elephants should and where they can coexist. Yet, there is no microscopic map of Asian elephants anywhere.
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.