The Plight of the Asian Elephant--New Highway Checkpoint Threatens to Cut Off Elephant Life Line

asian elephant photo

Photo: quinet

The largest population of Asian elephants currently found in the wild is under imminent threat according to the Rainforest Information Centre in Australia. This stunning herd of elephants populates the mountains of the Western Ghats where the three Indian states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka meet. The herd's survival migration, beginning in Tamil Nadu and ending in Kerala and Karnataka, occurs each summer when water and food become scarce in Tamil Nadu. But now, a relocated checkpoint threatens to cut off the herd's life sustaining thoroughfare.Overdevelopment and habitat encroachment has long endangered the critical migration of the largest remaining population of Asian elephants left in the world (numbering about 1,000), but a new checkpoint threatens to cut off this survival lifeline completely. Previous habitat fragmentation has already forced these migrating elephants to travel through a narrow corridor approximately 4 miles wide to reach food and water during the summer months.

Overdevelopment Makes Survival Migration Impossible
The Nulpuzha river, which runs through the narrow corridor, is the sole water source for the elephants for around 3 or 4 months each year. A major inter-state highway linking Bangalore with Calicut which passes through this corridor has long been a hindrance for the magnificent creatures. The highway currently runs along the western edge of the migratory corridor. Recently, however, the decision was made to relocate a number of highway checkpoints into the center of the corridor. This move would completely cut the elephants off from the river, which would threaten their survival migration.

Work has already started to prevent elephants from crossing the road, which would cut them off from the river and whatever little fodder available on the river margin. Unfortunately, the local government has ignored other locations for the establishment of the checkpoints that would protect the elephant habitat. The ideal solution would be to relocate the checking stations to an area outside the forest on the Kerala side of the corridor where suitable land awaits.

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