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The degradation of forest habitat near Himalayan foothills is a complex challenge for biodiversity conservation. It is also driven by habitat loss, land use change over time and expanding human population. The resulting damage is considerable to paddy crops, human property by herd of tuskers. There are incidents of humans being killed by wild elephants in Orissa and Mysore that finally make people retaliate against losses. This trend in conflict has been increasing in Asia and Africa also. However Cambodia, Myanmar and Malaysia have large areas for elephant habitat. The vast evergreen forests of Sri Lanka, Southern India and Thailand are habitats of Asian elephant.


Assam has the highest number of wild elephants in India. The man-elephant conflict is on the rise in Assam. The conflict especially in Sonitpur District of Assam has intensified recently. It is a major threat to the existence of elephants outside protected areas i.e. human-dominated landscapes. The Valparai plateau of Annamalai hills in southern Western Ghats also face the issue of conservation for elephants. There are scattered rainforest fragments with tea and coffee plantations. People compelled to live as co-inhabitants with wildlife. Also elephants die because of uncontrolled illegal ivory poaching. Besides elephants fall victim to speeding train, poisoning and electrocution. There is no winner in this conflict. But it poses the greatest threat to the natural world.

There are percentile equations associated with forest cover for loss of critical habitat threshold deforestation. A study on implications for landscape management is highly sought to mitigate further conflict around the world. A long time solution for “habitat corridors” is needed to lessen the impact on local residents by linking existing reserves through reforestation. Also people and elephants are to share the landscape for maximum coexistence. As the situation gets messy, the forest department needs to prevent further encroachment of Assam forest reserves of Sonai-Rupai Wildlife Sanctuary and Nameri National Park.

Kamal Baruah

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