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Mammalian Biology

, Volume 78, Issue 6, pp 470–481 | Cite as

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

  • Nagarajan BaskaranEmail author
  • Govindarajan Kannan
  • Uthrapathy Anbarasan
  • Anisha Thapa
  • Raman Sukumar
Original Investigation

Abstract

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 km2. 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% CI = 0.99-1.2)elephant/km2. 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 sub-adults (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.

Keywords

Asian elephant Southern India Elephant habitats Elephant-human conflict 

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Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nagarajan Baskaran
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Govindarajan Kannan
    • 1
  • Uthrapathy Anbarasan
    • 1
  • Anisha Thapa
    • 1
  • Raman Sukumar
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Asian Nature Conservation Foundation, C/o Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of ScienceBangaloreIndia
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyA.V.C. College (Autonomous)Mannampandal, MayiladuthuraiIndia
  3. 3.Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of ScienceBangaloreIndia

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