Experts for elephant route mapping in CHT

Experts for elephant route mapping in CHT

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A comprehensive mapping of elephant routes and corridors is essential to carry out development works in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) averting man-elephant conflicts in elephant ranges, say experts.   “Elephants follow specific corridors in their movement from generation-to-generation. As the government has been carrying out development works in the CHT, man-elephant conflict is on the rise,” Prof M Anwarul Islam, the chief executive of Wildteam, told journalists.
If a mapping of elephant routes and corridors could be done, he said, elephant management areas, their corridors and habitats will be identified. “After the mapping, we’ll be able to know about the ecological requirements of elephants and their home ranges. And then a proper conservation plan could be prepared to protect them,” Prof Anwarul said.
Dr Tapan Kumar Dey, a forest conservator, said man-elephant conflict is a common phenomenon in hilly areas, but if the elephant corridors could be identified, such conflict and crop damage will come down in these areas and elephants will be able to easily move from one place to another through their corridors.
He said there are a number of unidentified elephant corridors in the country. “A mapping is needed to identify the elephant corridors to avert man-elephant conflicts.”
Mohammad Abdul Motaleb, an official at IUCN Bangladesh, told journalists that the government has taken an initiative to set up a rail line from Dulahazra to Gundum, aiming to ensure rail connectivity with eastern Asian countries.
“But there’re a number of elephant corridors in Dulahazra-Gundum (Cox’s Bazar) area. If the mapping of elephant corridors is not sorted out before setting up the rail tracks, the elephants will lose their corridors, triggering man-elephant conflicts in the region,” he said.
Motaleb said there should be a rail overpasses from Dulahazra to Gundum so that the elephant can peacefully move on their corridors. In Bangladesh, the highest number of elephants is found in the Chittagong Hill Tracts apart from some in Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar Forest Divisions, and Mymensingh and Sylhet areas.
Due to fragmentation of habitats, elephant ranges in Bangladesh have become confined to small patches occupied by a single or few small herds. Some corridors have been totally abandoned due to degradation of forest cover, extension of human settlements, intensification of agricultural practice, unsustainable slush and burn practice, unplanned road construction and establishment of monoculture forests.
Motaleb said conflicts between humans and elephants have become a major concern for conservationists during the last two decades.   Bangladesh is a small country of about 14.8 million hectares of land of which 2.53 million hectares (17.49 percent) is under forest cover. This includes 0.27 million hectares of homestead forests and 2.26 million hectares of state-owned forest reserves and protected areas, he said.
“As a result, elephants and farmers, along with poor people, have become incompatible neighbours in many parts of the elephant ranges in Bangladesh.”   Motaleb said elephant and human cannot live together without conflicts where agriculture is the dominant form of land use. So, human-elephant conflict occurs in a brutal form and the situation sometimes gets so much intolerable and elephants die due to conflicts.
He said the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Bangladesh has already initiated a project,  ‘Status Survey and Development of Elephant Action Plan for Bangladesh’, aiming to conduct an elephant survey, formulating an action plan in elephant conservation and mapping the elephant corridors.
Under the current initiative, the mapping will be carried out for all the elephant ranges of Bangladesh by giving emphasis on the Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Bandarban and Khagrachhari districts.
The specific objectives of the initiative include identifying the present status (population and distribution) of Asian elephants in Bangladesh, preparing maps of Asian elephant habitats, routes, corridors and human-elephant conflict areas, identifying location, causes and frequency of human-elephant conflict and preparing a long-term action plan for the conservation of Asian elephant.
On completion of the two-year project initiated in June 2013, Motaleb said the government can conduct development works in the elephant ranges (CHT region) following the maps of elephant corridors, which will help avert human-elephant conflict in the country.
Meanwhile, Indian Border Security Force (BSP) sent a proposal on elephant corridors to the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs. The proposed ‘elephant corridors’ aimed at reducing man-animal conflict along Indo-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya are awaiting clearance and sanction from the Indian Home Ministry.
The BSF proposed five such corridors, all in the Garo Hills region, in collaboration with the state’s forest department which kept track of elephant movements to and from Bangladesh from Balpakram National Park in South Garo Hills district, Meghalaya Frontier BSF Inspector General Sudesh Kumar recently told reporters in Meghalaya.
The elephant population continues to decline as they live under constant threat of their habitat destruction and deforestation, as well as illegal poaching for ivory. In global context, Asian elephant is currently listed as ‘endangered species’ and classified under Appendix-I in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
At present, elephants have disappeared entirely from western Asia, Iran and most of China. The present populations of Asian elephants are thought to be restricted to primarily mountainous areas in India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh; Continental Southeast Asia: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia; and Island Asia: Andaman Islands (India), Sri Lanka, Sumatra (Indonesia) and Borneo (Malaysia and Indonesia). – UNB

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