Our human-elephant conflict mitigation efforts are aimed at addressing the issue of crop-raiding by Asian elephants. This is where elephants enter cropland near the forest boundary and help themselves to the crops that farmers are growing for human consumption, causing significant economic losses to the affected farmers, which I’ll explain a bit further in later posts.
Elephant crop-raiding also has a more indirect effect on wildlife conservation efforts. In late-October of this year, I happened to get a chance to talk to members of the inaugural Tiger [Conservation] Task Force during their training in Bandipur National Park. They really liked my work and told me about how elephant crop-raiding really affected their ability to convince villagers to not encroach upon the sanctity of the protected wildlife areas. That gave me the idea to create a “Circle of life near the jungle” graphic, presented below. [forgive the strange looking cattle, my drawing skills have a ways to go yet).
1) Elephants enter villages and raid on croplands.
2) Farmers let their cattle into the forest to graze. Wildlife officials don’t have too much credibility to stop these cattle from grazing in wildlife areas because the villagers point out the issue of wildlife such as elephants entering their own lands.
3) Grazing by cattle in wildlife areas depletes suitable vegetation for elephants, enhancing the attractiveness of lush croplands and perhaps exacerbating elephant raiding. Thus the circle of life near the jungle continues to spiral …
In addition, there is a ripple effect on other wildlife. Grazing by cattle within the jungle not only reduces forage for elephants, it reduces forage for all herbivores such as deer or gaur, which in turn are food for carnivores such as tigers and leopards.
Perhaps this is why the members of the Tiger Task Force were so interested in our work. They feel that if we can reliably keep elephants out of croplands, they will have the credibility to enforce the ban on cattle entering wildlife areas, enhancing the prospects of all species that within these protected areas.