Why have elephants in NE stopped using many of its corridors?

To cite an example, elephants have ceased to use the Pakke-Doimara elephant corridor, which connects the Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh with the Doimara Reserve Forest of Khellong Forest Division.

The factors include the following: the presence of National Highway 229, which traverses the corridor with its high volume of vehicular traffic; fencing surrounding the residential area; the Tippi industrial estate; and the concrete walls demarcating the boundaries of the Tippi tourism guest house and Orchid Research Centre.

“Earlier this corridor was used by elephants for crossing into Doimara Reserve Forest. However, due to obstruction of the corridor at Tippi, the elephants take the route of Dedzeling nullah to reach Dadzu-Lumia-Dedzeling at present for their further movement to Doimara reserve forest. Thus, the Dadzu – Lumia (Dedzeling) serves as the substitute for the Pakke – Doimara elephant corridor at Tippi,” stated the Elephant Corridors Report 2023.

The report defines elephant corridors as strips of land aiding elephant movement between viable habitats. “The parsimonious definition of the elephant corridor is that it is a strip of land that facilitates the movement of elephants between two or more viable habitat patches. Movement of elephants away from forest habitats into the human domain without connecting to viable habitat patches may not be considered elephant corridors” the report stated.

“The elephant corridors where elephant use was perceived to be virtually nonexistent by the Forest Department were graded as ‘impaired’,” says the report. These corridors would require restoration to facilitate elephant movement. Securing elephant corridors has long been considered an important strategy to conserve elephants and minimise human-elephant conflict in the Indian context.

The Northeast region boasts 48 elephant corridors, which constitute 32% of the elephant corridors in the country.

In the Northeast, there are seven impaired elephant corridors: Pakke-Doimara at Tippi Corridor, Durpong-Doimukh at Khundakhuwa Corridor, D’ering-Mebo at Kongkul Corridor, Kukurakata-Bagser at Amguri Corridor, Charduar-Singri Hill Corridor, Ranggira-Nokrek Corridor, and Saipung-Narpuh Corridor.

The report noted that the establishment of the NEHU campus, Garo Students Union building, a fishery pond, the 2nd Police battalion, and the expansion of human settlements and horticultural crops have contributed to the impairment of the Ranggira-Nokrek Corridor, connecting Ranggira, Sanchangiri, and Galwang Reserve Forest to Nokrek National Park in Meghalaya. Previously, around 40-50 elephants were sighted, but this is no longer the case.

In India, there are a total of 150 elephant corridors across 15 states in four regions. In 59 of these corridors, elephant activity has increased, while 29 have remained stable. However, in another 29 corridors, elephant use has decreased. 15 corridors need restoration to support elephant movement.

In the Northeast, many elephant corridors have seen reduced activity. For example, the Panbari Corridor, connecting Kaziranga National Park to Karbi Anglong Forest Division via Panbari Reserve Forest, has seen diminished elephant movement due to a 4 km stretch of National Highway 37 with 1500 daily vehicles and a high-tension power line. Kaziranga National Park houses a significant elephant and megafauna population, including the one-horned Rhinoceros.

To cite another example, movement of elephants has decreased in Kanchanjuri Corridor which connects the elephant habitats of Kaziranga National Park with Ruthepahar forest of East Karbi Anglong Forest Division and Bagser Reserve Forest of Nagaon Forest Division due to NH 37 which is the principal bottleneck.

In the Golai-Pawai corridor (Upper Dihing East – Upper Dihing West Block Corridor), elephant movement has decreased due to the Tinsukia–Lidu railway track, National Highway 38, and the IOCL terminal.

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Elephant movement has also decreased in the Pakke-Papum Seijosa nallah Corridor, which connects Papum Reserve Forest in the Khelong Forest Division to Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh. This decline is attributed to a 15 km stretch of NEC road connecting Seijosa and the Pakke Kessang road passing through the corridor, as well as a proposed high-power tension line.

In the Geleki-Tuli corridor, which links the Geleki Reserve Forest to the Tuli Range Forest Division in Nagaland’s Dimapur district, observers can spot only two elephants.

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