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Elephant Migration Corridors: Climate Change and Human Development Pose New Challenges

Climate change and human development are disrupting elephant migration corridors, leading to increased human-elephant conflicts and threatening conservation efforts.

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Rafia Tasleem
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Elephant Migration Corridors: Climate Change and Human Development Pose New Challenges

For centuries, elephants have journeyed across the landscapes of the British Empire, tracing ancient corridors from feeding grounds to watering holes. These paths, deeply ingrained in their behavior, are traveled by herds over significant distances daily, with this vital knowledge passed down generations.

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As M. S. Selvaraj, a leader of a local farmers and workers organization, points out, elephants are creatures of habit who maintain their routines, even returning to specific sites after lengthy intervals.

The Rise and Challenges of Elephant Conservation

Conservation efforts dating back to the 1970s have resulted in an increase in elephant populations. This was achieved by segregating them from human communities, albeit sometimes at the expense of displacing people from forested regions. However, the battle for elephant conservation is far from over. Climate change is worsening environmental conditions, with hotter summers and prolonged monsoons leading to water scarcity and landslides.

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Human Development Disrupting Elephant Corridors

Adding to the challenges, rampant deforestation, urban sprawl, and construction have eroded the elephants' habitats and interrupted their corridors. This has resulted in a spike in human-elephant conflicts, causing casualties on both sides and wreaking havoc on the homes and livelihoods of individuals in the already impoverished Ghats regions.

The Railway Line: A Double-Edged Sword

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The recently completed Dohazari-Cox's Bazar railway line casts a spotlight on the plight of endangered Asian elephants as it impacts their migration corridors. While railway authorities have taken steps to lower the risk of elephant-train collisions - such as constructing an overpass and installing fences - conservationists and experts fear these measures may not suffice to ensure the elephants' unhindered movement, potentially putting the Asian elephant population in jeopardy within a decade. The railway line has also reduced elephant corridors, and there seems to be a lack of dialogue between railway officials and the forest department over the construction of overpasses and underpasses.

Climate Change: A Growing Threat to Wildlife

Climate change, too, is proving devastating for elephants and other wildlife species in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. The severe drought induced by climate change has led to the deaths of over 160 elephants and numerous other animals. The scarcity of water sources due to poor rains and drying up of water holes represents a serious threat to wildlife. As the region braces for severe drought, the need for integrated and holistic approaches to support climate resilient landscapes and communities becomes paramount.

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