Jun 8, 2008
The Western Ghats, recognized globally as one of the eight HOTTEST HOT SPOTS of biodiversity is one of the largest unbroken pieces of forest. The exciting news is that these evergreen tropical forests are likely to be included in the list of world heritage sites (2009) by the United Nations. To date there are six natural heritage sites in India which include the Valley of flowers and Nanda Devi Biosphere reserve, Kaziranga National Park, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Sunderban and Keoladeo National Park.
The western Ghat forest ranges are home to wildlife sanctuaries, National parks, Tiger reserves, and biodiversity coffee plantations. The Bandipur National park flanked by Nagarahole National park, Madhumalai wild life sanctuary and Wayanad wildlife sanctuary, together constitute the protected NILGIRI BIOSPHERE reserve, which is India’s first biosphere reserve. This reserve is a key breeding landscape for tigers, elephants, sambars, and other mega fauna.
These spectacular Ghats comprising of mountain ranges, steep valleys, rivers, rivulets and pristine forests cover an area of about 160,000 square kilometers. Indian coffee is a proud partner of this biosphere reserve and plays a pivotal role in providing unrestricted migratory routes for many migratory animals and supports their need for forage, food, shade and water during dry spells and act as a refuge for residential and endangered species.
The coffee forests in particular act as migratory corridors for the movement of elephant herds from one region to the other.
In recent years there is a growing threat of human intervention resulting in the Western Ghats suffering an annual deforestation rate of 1.16 per cent despite 15 per cent of their land area being protected as wild life sanctuaries. Due to timber logging and rampant poaching for ivory, the forest itself is in trouble. All that remains are fragments of a once pristine wildlife habitat. Wild elephants are increasingly shifting base from the floor of the forest and taking sanctuary inside shade grown ecofriendly coffee plantations.
ECO-FRIENDLY COFFEE: Multiple crops are commonly grown along with coffee. Pepper vines are grown on shade trees, cardamom, Areca nut, Ginger, orange, Citrus, Vanilla and a few other spices are grown as multiple crops inside the Coffee Plantations. Rice and bananas are commercially grown in the valleys.
Wild Elephants find food in plentiful inside the coffee farms and this leads to negative interactions between humans and elephants, commonly referred to as the Human elephant conflict. Elephants spend about three-quarters of their time, day and night, selecting, picking, preparing and eating food. An adult elephant in the wild will eat in the region of 100 to 200 Kg (220 to 440 lb.) of vegetation per day depending on the habitat and the size of the elephant.
The number of plant species eaten by any one elephant may vary but it is likely to be more than fifty. We have witnessed widespread human elephant conflict for the past two decades. Our observations point out to the fact that the conflict is getting out of hand resulting in the destruction of crops on one side and the death and decline of these magnificent gentle giants on the other side. Something needs to be done on a war footing to conserve these endangered elephants and alleviate the sufferings of the subsistence farmers.
CONSERVATION EFFORTS AT JOE’S SUSTAINABLE FARM:
Adults and Children in particular are enlightened on different aspects of elephant behavior. They are also taught to feel and feed the elephants with the help of an experienced trainer.
World Environment day, commemorated each year on June 5th is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment. It’s perhaps a good occasion to sit back and take stock of the state of our environment. We need to give mother earth a chance to repair itself from man made problems like deforestation and rapid Industrialization. Our commitment for a better earth must be articulated in terms of future generations.
On a global scale, nearly 525 million hectares of land world wide have been designated as nature parks, wildlife refuges and National reserves. The danger from our point of view is that the management of these game sanctuaries and biosphere reserves is based on political outlook rather than ecological considerations. It is high time that conservationists change their strategy in protecting wildlife. The natural biogeographical zones of an entire ecosystem, with its associated land, water, air and wildlife resources must be managed as a unit if we are to preserve the integrity of these ecologically sensitive hotspots.
We also need to realize that wildlife cannot be safeguarded without mankind’s determined sacrifice to protect them for fear of living in a world of darkness.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION :
INDIAN ELEPHANT: STATUS: Endangered. South India houses a population of around 8000 and North India around 7000. In all there are 25,600 to 32,750 Asian elephants (in 13 range Countries) left in the wild with an additional 15,000 in captivity.
Unlike the African elephant only the males of the Indian elephants have tusks, and a part of the genetic population called MAKHNAS do not have it at all. The tusk size denotes rank and position among the herd. Young and females form herds and Males tend to disperse.
Elephants are the largest living land animals and are highly intelligent. According to WWF reports, Asian elephants grow up to 21 feet long, stand up to 10 feet tall, and weigh up to 11,000 pounds. They have a matriarchal society (Female is the ruler of the herd) and a herd comprises of a nucleus of 2 to 3 mature cows.
TUSKS: A male elephant’s most prized possession is the ivory tusks. The tusks are used in decorative arts, game pieces and musical instruments. Due to habitat loss elephants now enter wet lands and coffee estates resulting in human animal conflict.
BREEEDING: Elephants that are 12-15 years old are sexually active. In the presence of several old bulls, they get a chance to mate only after the age of 25 years. The chances of successful mating increases with the size and age of the bull. The gestation period varies from 20 to 22 months and females will produce a calf every four to five years. An Asian elephant calf is about 260 pounds at birth. The reproductive rate in elephants is rather low. Asian elephants can live to be 60.