Of the 38,000 square kilometres landscape of the Western Ghats, home to the Asian Elephants, about 17,000 square kilometres was deemed unsuitable for the species due to high human-density settlements or intensive agriculture, found a study conducted by multiple wildlife organisations including the Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bangalore and Wildlife Conservation Society.
“We found that human presence played a key role in determining where elephants were found, much more so than environmental attributes”, explains Devcharan Jathanna, lead author of the study.
Of the remaining 21,000 km2 free of human intervention, less than 13,500 km2 was actually occupied by elephants, as per the research findings.
The areas covered by the research include wildlife reserves and human dominated areas. “The elephant habitats are subject to threats from illegal hunting, livestock grazing and forest biomass extraction,” states the report.
Underscoring need for strict regulations to secure this critical landscape, the research aimed to provide a baseline (of elephant distribution in Western Ghats) to evaluate impacts of human activities on the Ghats, over time.
“Given that the landscape supports over 10.2 million people and is undergoing rapid economic growth, there is urgent need to provide more strictly protected enclaves for elephants across their distributional range in this landscape,” says the research.
Published on 24 July 2015, the study assumes importance owing to the dearth of data on the distribution patterns and the areas inhabited by the Asian elephants in India.