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A landscape-level assessment of Asian elephant habitat, its population and elephant-human conflict in the Anamalai hill ranges of southern Western Ghats, India

Baskaran, Nagarajan and Kannan, Govindarajan and Anbarasan, Uthrapathy and Thapa, Anisha and Sukumar, Raman (2013) A landscape-level assessment of Asian elephant habitat, its population and elephant-human conflict in the Anamalai hill ranges of southern Western Ghats, India. In: Mammalian Biology - Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde, 78 (6). pp. 470-481.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mambio.2013.04.007


Spatial information at the landscape scale is extremely important for conservation planning, especially in the case of long-ranging vertebrates. The biodiversity-rich Anamalai hill ranges in the Western Ghats of southern India hold a viable population for the long-term conservation of the Asian elephant. Through rapid but extensive field surveys we mapped elephant habitat, corridors, vegetation and land-use patterns, estimated the elephant population density and structure, and assessed elephant-human conflict across this landscape. GIS and remote sensing analyses indicate that elephants are distributed among three blocks over a total area of about 4600 km(2). Approximately 92% remains contiguous because of four corridors; however, under 4000 km2 of this area may be effectively used by elephants. Nine landscape elements were identified, including five natural vegetation types, of which tropical moist deciduous forest is dominant. Population density assessed through the dung count method using line transects covering 275 km of walk across the effective elephant habitat of the landscape yielded a mean density of 1.1 (95% Cl = 0.99-1.2) elephant/km(2). Population structure from direct sighting of elephants showed that adult male elephants constitute just 2.9% and adult females 42.3% of the population with the rest being subadults (27.4%), juveniles (16%) and calves (11.4%). Sex ratios show an increasing skew toward females from juvenile (1:1.8) to sub-adult (1:2.4) and adult (1:14.7) indicating higher mortality of sub-adult and adult males that is most likely due to historical poaching for ivory. A rapid questionnaire survey and secondary data on elephant-human conflict from forest department records reveals that villages in and around the forest divisions on the eastern side of landscape experience higher levels of elephant-human conflict than those on the western side; this seems to relate to a greater degree of habitat fragmentation and percentage farmers cultivating annual crops in the east. We provide several recommendations that could help maintain population viability and reduce elephant-human conflict of the Anamalai elephant landscape. (C) 2013 Deutsche Gesellschaft far Saugetierkunde. Published by Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publication: Mammalian Biology - Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde
Publisher: Elsevier Science
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to Elsevier Science.
Keywords: Asian Elephant; Southern India; Elephant Habitats; Elephant-Human Conflict
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2013 09:02
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2013 09:02
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/48085

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