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


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.


Asian elephant Southern India Elephant habitats Elephant-human conflict 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arivazhagan, C., Sukumar, R., 2008. Constructing age structures of Asian elephant populations: a comparison of two field methods of age estimation. Gajah: Journal of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group 29, 11–16.Google Scholar
  2. Barnes, R.F.W., Jensen, K.L., 1987. How to count elephants in the forest. IUCN African Elephant and Rhino Specialist Group Technical Bulletin 1, 1–16.Google Scholar
  3. Barnes, R.F.W., 1993. Indirect method for counting elephants in forest. Pachyderm 16, 24–30.Google Scholar
  4. Baskaran, N., 1998. Ranging and resource utilization by Asian elephant (Elephasmax-imus Linn.) in Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve South India. Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirapally, India (Ph.D. Thesis).Google Scholar
  5. Baskaran, N., Balasubramanian, M., Swaminathan, S., Desai, A.A., 1995. Home range of elephants and its implications for the management of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve India. In: Daniel, J.C., Datye, H.S. (Eds.), A Week with Elephants. Bombay Natural History Society and Oxford University Press, Bombay, pp. 296–313.Google Scholar
  6. Baskaran, N., Harshad, R.M., Sukumar, R., 2004. A study on elephant population and its habitats in the northern West Bengal, northeastern India. Technical Report, Asian Elephant Research and Conservation Centre, Centre for Ecological Sciences. Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.Google Scholar
  7. Baskaran, N., Kannan, G., Anbarasan, U., 2007. Conservation of elephant population in the Anamalai-Nelliyampathis & Palani hills (Project Elephant Range 9), southern India. In: Final Report to United States Fish & Wildlife Service. Asian Nature Conservation Foundation, c/o Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India.Google Scholar
  8. Bist, S.S., 2002. An overview of elephant conservation in India. The Indian Forester 128 (2), 121–136.Google Scholar
  9. Buckland, S.T., Anderson, D.R., Burnham, K.P., Lake, J.L, 2003. Distance Sampling: Estimating Abundance of Biological Populations. Chapman & Hall, London.Google Scholar
  10. Burnham, K.P., Anderson, D.R., 2002. Model Selection and Multi-model Inference: A Practical Information - Theoretical Approach, 2nd ed. Springer.Google Scholar
  11. CITES UNEP-WCMC, 2003. UNEP-WCMC Species Database: CITES Listed Species on the World Wide Web, (accessed on 01.05.03).
  12. Congalton, R., Green, K., 1999. Assessing the Accuracy of Remotely Sensed Data: Principles and Practices. CRC/Levies Press, Boca Raton, 137pp.Google Scholar
  13. Dawson, S., 1990. A model to estimate Asian elephant densities in forest. Department of Zoology, University of Oxford (M.Sc, Dissertation). 135 pp.Google Scholar
  14. Dawson, S., Dekker, A.J.F.M., 1992. Counting Asian Elephants in Forests. RAPA Publication: 1992/11. FAO, Bangkok, Thailand.Google Scholar
  15. Desai, A.A., 1991. The home range of elephants and its implications for the management of the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 88, 145–156.Google Scholar
  16. Easa, P.S., Zacharias, J., Indichoodan, N.C., 1990. A conservation unit for Asian elephant. In: Karunakaran, C.K. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Symposium on Ecology, Behaviour and Management of Elephants in Kerala. Thiruvananthapuram, 23-24 February 1990. Wildlife Wing, Kerala Forest Department, pp. 149–157.Google Scholar
  17. Gadgil, M., Meher-Homji, V.M., 2003. Conservation in developing countries: problems and prospects. In: Daniel, J.C., Serrao, J.S. (Eds.), Proceedings of the Centenary Seminar of the Bombay Natural History Society. Bombay Natural History Society, pp. 175–198.Google Scholar
  18. Hedges, S., Lawson, D., 2006. Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants: Dung Survey Standards for the MIKE Programme. CITES MIKE Programme Central Co-ordinating Unit, Nairobi, Kenya.Google Scholar
  19. Hoare, R., 1999. Determinants of elephant-human conflict in a land-use mosaic. J. Appl. Ecol. 36 (5), 689–700.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. IUCN, 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4, (downloaded on 06.01.11).
  21. Jensen, J.R., 2007. Remote Sensing of the Environment: An Earth Resource Perspective, 2nd ed. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.Google Scholar
  22. Kannan, R., 1998. Avifauna of the Anamalai hills (Western Ghats) of southern India. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 95, 193–214.Google Scholar
  23. Kumar, A., Singh, M., Srivastava, S.K., Udhayan, A., Kumara, H.N., Sharma, A.K., 2002. Distribution patterns, relative abundance and management of mammals in Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu, India. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 99, 184–210.Google Scholar
  24. Kumar, A., Pethiyagoda, R., Mudappa, D., 2004a. Western Ghats and Sri Lanka. In: Mittermeier, R.A., Gill, P.R., Hoffman, M., Pilgrim, J. (Eds.), Hotspots Revisited -Earth’s Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Ecoregions. CEMEX, Mexico, pp. 152–157.Google Scholar
  25. Kumar, M.A., Mudappa, D., Raman, T.R.S., Madhusudan, M.D., 2004b. The Elephant Hills. Conservation of wild Asian elephants in a landscape of fragmented rainforests and plantations in the Anamalais, India. CERC Technical Report No. 10. Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore.Google Scholar
  26. Kumar, M.A., Mudappa, D., Raman, T.R.S., 2010. The Asian elephant Elephas maximus habitat use and ranging in fragmented rainforest and plantations in Anamalai hills, India. J. Conserv. Sci. 3 (2), 143–158.Google Scholar
  27. Laing, S.E., Buckland, S.T., Burn, R.W., Lambie, D., Amphlett, A., 2003. Dung and nest surveys: estimating decay rates. J. Appli. Ecol. 40, 1102–1111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Leimgruber, P., Gagnon, J.B., Wemmer, C., Kelly, D.S., Songer, M.A., Selig, E.R., 2003. Fragmentation of Asia’s remaining wild lands: implications for Asian elephant conservation. Anim. Conserv. 6, 347–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lillesand, T.M., Kiefer, R.W., 2000. Remote Sensing and Image Interpretation, 4th ed. John Wiley and Sons Inc., Singapore.Google Scholar
  30. Mar, K.U., 2007. The demography and life history strategies of timber elephants in Myanmar. University College, London (Ph.D. Thesis).Google Scholar
  31. Mittermeier, R.A., Gill, P.R., Hoffman, M., Pilgrim, J., 2005. Hotspots Revisited: Earth’s Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Terrestrial Ecoregions. Cemex, Mexico, pp. 136–147.Google Scholar
  32. Myers, N., Mittermeier, R.A., Mittermeier, C.G., da Fonseca, G.A.B., Kent, J., 2000. Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403, 853–858.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  33. Nameer, P.O., Molur, S., Walker, S., 2001. Mammals of Western Ghats: a simplistic overview. Zoos’ Print 16, 629–639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pascal, J.P., Shyam-Sunder, S., Meher-Homji, V.M., 1982. Forest Map of South India: Mercara-Mysore. Karnataka Forest Department Bangalore and French Institute Pondichery.Google Scholar
  35. Project Elephant, 2004. Ministry of Environment and Forests. Government of India, New Delhi.Google Scholar
  36. Project Elephant: Gajatme, 1993. Project Elephant, Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India. February 1993.Google Scholar
  37. Rangarajan, M., Desai, A., Sukumar, R., Easa, P.S., Menon, V., Vincent, S., Ganguly, S., Talukdar, B.K., Singh, B., Mudappa, D., Chowdhary, S., Prasad, A.N., 2010. Gajah: Securing the future for elephants in India. Report of the Elephant Task Force. Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi, 187 pp.Google Scholar
  38. Riddle, H.S., Schulte, B.A., Desai, A.A., Meer, L.V.D., 2010. Elephants - a conservation overview. Journal of Threatened Taxa 2 (1), 653–661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Santiapillai, C., Jackson, P., 1990. The Asian Elephant: An Action Plan for its Conservation. IUCN-The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland.Google Scholar
  40. Santosh, J.A., Sukumar, R., 1995. Some solutions to estimation of elephant densities. In: Daniel, J.C., Datye, H.S. (Eds.), A Week with Elephants. Bombay Natural History Society and Oxford University Press, Bombay, pp. 394–404.Google Scholar
  41. Sivaram, M., Ramachandran, K.K., Nair, V.P., Jayson, E.A.,2006. Population estimation of wild elephants in the elephant reserves of Kerala state – 2005. KFRI Extension Project Report No. 61. Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi.Google Scholar
  42. Subramanyam, K., Nayar, M.P., 1974. Vegetation and phytogeography of the Western Ghats. In: Mani, S. (Ed.), Ecology and Biogeography of India. WJunk Publishers, The Hague, The Netherlands, pp. 178–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sukumar, R., 1989. The Asian Elephant: Ecology and Management. Cambridge University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  44. Sukumar, R., 2003. The Living Elephants: Evolutionary Ecology, Behavior and Conservation. Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  45. Sukumar, R., Joshi, N.V., Krishnamurthy, V., 1988. Growth in the Asian elephant. In: Proceedings of the Indian Academy of Science (Animal Sciences) 97, pp. 561–657.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sukumar, R., Krishnamurthy, V., Wemmer, C, Rodden, M., 1997. Demography of captive Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in southern India. Zoo Biol. 16, 263–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sukumar, R., Santiapillai, C, 2006. Planning for Asian elephant conservation. Gajah: Journal of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group 25, 9–20.Google Scholar
  48. Sukumar, R., Venkataraman, A., Varma, S., Kumar, V., 1998. The Asian Elephant in Southern India: A GIS Database for the Conservation of Project Elephant Reserves. Asian Elephant Research and Conservation Centre, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India.Google Scholar
  49. Sukumar, R., Venkataraman, A., Baskaran, N., Dharmarajan, G., Roy, M., Suresh, H.S., Narendran, K., December 2003. Study of elephants in Buxa Tiger Reserve and adjoining areas in northern west Bengal and preparation of conservation action plan. In: Final Report to the West Bengal Forest Department under India Eco-development Project. Centre for Ecological Science, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.Google Scholar
  50. Thomas, L.J., Laake, L., Strindberg, S., Marques, F.F.C., Buckland, S.T., Borchers, D.L., Anderson, D.R., Burnham, K.P., Hedley, S.L., Pollard, J.H., Bishop, J.R.B., Marques, T.A., 2005. DISTANCE, version 5.0, beta 5. Research Unit for Wildlife Population Assessment. University of St. Andrews, United Kingdom, Available at Scholar
  51. Umapathy, G., Kumar, A., 2000. Occurrence of arboreal mammals in the rain forest fragments in the Anamalai hills, South India. Biol. Conserv. 92, 311–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Venkataraman, A., 2005. What is an Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) corridor? In: Menon, V., Tiwari, S.K., Easa, P.S., Sukumar, R. (Eds.), Right of Passage: Elephant Corridors of India. Wildlife Trust of India, New Delhi, pp. 24–33.Google Scholar
  53. Vidya, T.N.C., Fernando, P., Melnick, D.J., Sukumar, R., 2005. Population differentiation within and among Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) populations in southern India. Heredity 94, 71–80.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Watve, M.G., 1992. Ecology of host parasite interactions in wild mammalian host community in Mudumalai, southern India. Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (Ph.D. Thesis).Google Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations