Restoring degraded forest ecosystems in South India for creating better habitats for wild Asiatic elephants (Elephas maximus): Design parameters, methods, and monitoring

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Ramesh Venkataraman

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Bandipur National Park is a Protected Area and an important tiger and elephant reserve located in the Western Ghats of South India, a global biodiversity hotspot. Lokkere Reserve Forest abutting the national park is an important buffer habitat and migratory corridor for wild animals, mainly Asiatic elephants. These buffer forests have been highly degraded due to long-term anthropogenic pressures and lower protection status. This presentation discusses efforts over the past nine years in restoring these forests to create healthier habitats for elephants. Project design combined general restoration goals with specific requirements of elephants including potential for foraging, water, shelter, movement ranges, habitat connectivity, etc. Restoration was planned over 10 square kilometres to ensure adequate habitat range. Grass cover, a primary need for elephants, was restored through soil moisture retention measures and dispersal of seeds and rhizomes. Contour trenches and gully plugs helped prevent run-off on hill slopes. As elephants have a multi-floral diet, vegetation surveys helped identify native plants browsed by elephants. Vegetation restoration mainly followed assisted natural regeneration principles, with species gaps addressed through seed and sapling introduction. As water is a key requirement for elephants, multiple small water bodies were made across the project area. Revival of fast-growing pioneer tree species helped improve canopy cover. Restoration activities were implemented by indigenous community members with good traditional knowledge of elephants. Habitat usage by elephants was monitored based on advice of elephant biologists, through visual sightings, and indirect evidence. Increase in habitat usage was observed, corresponding to the restoration progression.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program

Society for Ecological Restoration