‘Human disturbance limiting elephant distribution in Western Ghats’

Kolkata, July 25 (IANS) Human disturbance is limiting elephant distribution in the Western Ghats, a new study revealed on Saturday.

Scientists at Wildlife Conservation Society, India and Centre for Wildlife Studies mapped elephant distribution across the 38,000 square km Malenad landscape in Western Ghats in Karnataka and found only 64 percent of the 21,000 square km elephant habitat was occupied by elephants.

“Our findings clearly show that elephant distribution is currently limited more strongly by human disturbance compared to natural habitat characteristics we assessed,” said Devcharan Jathanna, lead of the study published in the ‘PLoS One’ journal.

“This result underscores the conservation value of limiting disturbances such as illegal hunting, cattle grazing, forest product and biomass extraction as well as habitat fragmentation arising from local and large scale economic development.

“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,” said Jathanna.

India harbours nearly 60 percent of the current global wild population of Asian elephants.

The study was part of a larger initiative aimed at assessing tiger and prey distribution across the region, and was conducted in collaboration with the Karnataka Forest Department.

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