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Current Science


The Wayanad district of Kerala, India, is an important conservation and cultural landscape located in the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot. It is a slightly east-sloping plateau with a unique geographical feature of small rolling hills interspersed with low-lying swamps and meandering streams. Extensive deforestation that occurred in the last century has severely fragmented and degraded the forest of Wayanad, leaving it as a mosaic of forests, wetlands, croplands and towns. The remaining forests in Wayanad are part of the Brahmagiri-Nilgiri-Eastern Ghats Elephant Landscape (NEG), which holds the single largest contiguous population of Asian elephants globally. The NEG is prone to seasonal fluctuation in resource availability, where a large tract of dry forest reduces its carrying capacity for elephants during summer. The Wayanad forests are a critical microhabitat for elephants in the NEG due to availability of fodder and perennial water sources during summer. Despite the importance of this region for elephants, the forest is 'degrading' drastically that will have a far-reaching impact on the long-term conservation of elephants in the NEG. Similarly, human-elephant conflict is on the rise and it is one of the biggest threats to the conservation of elephants and the well-being of rural communities in Wayanad. In this article we identify the current conservation issues and recommend future management of Asian elephants and their habitat in Wayanad.

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