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Establishing a corridor for the elephants of Jharkhand, India, using Remote Sensing and GIS

Establishing a corridor for the elephants of Jharkhand using Remote Sensing and GIS

Richa N.K. Sharma
Lecturer, Department of Remote Sensing,
Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, Ranchi 835215,
Email: [email protected]

Dr Ashok Kumar Sinha
Ex. Professor and Head, Department of Zoology,
Ranchi University, Ranchi 834 001

Dr M.S. Nathawat

Professor and Head, Department of Remote Sensing,
Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, Ranchi835 215,
Email: msnathawat @yahoo.com

Ashok Kumar Pandey

IFS, Director, Bhagwan Birsa Zoological Park,
Ranchi, 835 215

Introduction

The Asian Elephant has declined primarily because of reduction in habitat than captures (Sukumar, R., 1989). In the state of Jharkhand in India, this rings exactly true. There being maximum ‘Makhanas’ poaching is not a major issue. (Evaluation Report) but the shrinkage of habitat is. With a maximum likely population of 750 elephants in the state (Annexure III, Evaluation Report), the corridor for the movement of the elephants have not all been mapped, the mapping requires systematic identification of the migratory routes and off late the recent changing trends reported in these routes.

The satellite view gives a close look at the overall intervening/fragmented tracts of forest distribution for this purpose, (Panwar, HS 1986)

The problem

In Jharkhand , the elephants are mainly concentrated in two sanctuaries. One the “Palamu Tiger Reserve” in the North West of the State and the other in the rich natural forests of “Saranda ” in the southern most part of the state. Incidentally, the “Singhbhum Elephant Reserve ” is the only elephant reserve in the country, which exists in this forest. The traditional routes of the elephants exist since times immemorial. But off late they are trying out new routes. In the process two group of elephant herds, one comprising of about 125 elephants and another of 25 elephants have been isolated from the Saranda forest and are trying to relocate themselves in the jungles of higher latitudes of the state i.e. in Hazaribagh district of the state. The group of 25 elephants has as high as 5 calves showing the stress this herd is going through. These are the herds, which are causing maximum man elephant conflict.

It is to relocate these herds to their nearest forest reserves that the corridor has to be established.

Study area

The State of Jharkhand lies within latitudes 21.98 to 25.20 N and longitude 83.39 to 87. 82 E. It covers an area of 79714 5sq. km. Jharkhand has about 27% forested area. (SFR 1999).

Establishing a corridor for the elephants of Jharkhand using Remote Sensing and GIS

Data used and methodology

IRS Wifs Feb 2001 satellite image on 1:250,000 scale was visually interpreted for the forest cover, and water bodies. It was digitized and geocoded.

The elephant movement paths were traced on Survey of India Toposheets on 1:50,000 scale based on the field interview of the people from villages where elephant man conflict was reported in the newspapers. The official reports of elephant sighting by the forest guards of the forest department were also incorporated to some extent. These paths were rectified and geocoded.

The transportation network of the state was treated similarly.

All these layers were overlaid on each other to see the overall situation of the elephant traffic routes.

A 1km buffer was created for the transportation network and a 6 km buffer was created on the elephant routes and the forest area.

The block boundaries of the state were also digitized so as to identify the blocks through which the corridor was established.

These buffers were intersected to find out the conflicting areas of the three themes namely elephant routes, rail and road network, which were to be avoided during the corridor planning.

While planning the corridor, care was taken to follow the existing elephant routes to the maximum extent and to incorporate the forested paths and water bodies in the routes.

Discussion

The overlay of the new elephant routes on the forested area shows that these intelligent creatures have been driven through the places where they could sense water bodies. The planned corridor is a 6 km buffered area keeping in mind that the daily movement of the herd is about 5 km .

Despite all efforts it was not possible to entirely to avoid the passage of rail and road routes through the corridor, but these intersection i.e of the rail and the road with that of the planned corridor, has been taken through forested area rather than agricultural land as the existing routes of these two heards were.

The planned corridor would enable the elephants to pass from one forest reserve into another, alternately to drive back the isolated herds into their original habitat by experts avoiding man-elephant conflict.

Acknowledgement:

The authors acknowledge the help of the Department of Forest and Environment, Government of Jharkhand, in terms of their data input and important information pertaining to this subject. Special mention may be made of Mr. S Lahiri, Ranchi and Mr H S Gupta (IFS), Chaibasa for their close involvement and interaction. The authors also feel indebted to the local populace around the indicated elephant movement routes for the type of co-operation extended by them in understanding the grass root issues related to this subject in better depth.

References:

  • Daniel, J.C., (ed) 1980. The status of Asian Elephants in Indian Subcontinent. IUCN/SSC Report, Bombay Natural History Society, Bombay
  • Evaluation Report of Project Elephant 2001 in the state of Jharkhand – Department of Forest and Environment, Got. Of Jharkhand.
  • Khanna, V., Ravichandran, M.S. and Kushwaha, S.P.S. 2001, J.of Ind. Soc. Of Remote Sensing, Vol 29, No 1&2, 2001 pp 41-46
  • Panwar, H.S., 1986, Forest Cover Mapping for Planning Tiger Corridors between Khanha and Bandhavgarh- A proposed project. Proceedings on Seminar-cum-Workshop on wildlife Habitat Evaluation Using Remote Sensing Techniques. October 22-23, 1986.
  • State of Forest Report, 1999, Forest Survey of India.
  • Sukumar, R. 1989. The Asian Elephant: Ecology and management, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.