In a remote part of Meghalaya in north-east India, threatened Asian elephants are now being protected by the newly declared Siju-Aretika Village Reserve.
The legal declaration of the 200 hectare (500 acre) Siju-Aretika Village Reserve Forest by the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council, is a significant first step towards the conservation of tribal lands, where land acquisition is very complicated. This is a shining example of community driven conservation, where villagers have risen to the challenge and signed written pledges to protect and conserve local wildlife.
In some areas ‘slash and burn’ agriculture, monoculture plantation and mining has had a devastating impact on the forest, thereby threatening the survival of elephants. In a bid to halt this destruction Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) motivated local people to take action themselves and this has resulted in really effective, community-based conservation.
India is estimated to have an Asian elephant population of approx 26500, (25000-28000) of which approx 1,900 live in Meghalaya. The Village Reserve area was considered a priority for conservation as it is within the Siju-Rewak Elephant Corridor. (This is the area that was famously described in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’.)
WTI are working with the World Land Trust (WLT) to purchase and protect a range of corridors between protected areas, for the benefit of elephants and local people, where elephant/human conflict is not unusual. These corridors aim to provide a safe passage between fragmented habitats allowing elephants to follow traditional migratory routes; they also protect the habitats of many other endangered species, such as Tiger and Leopard. The WTI have a successful outreach programme which educates communities about damaging agricultural practices and motivates local communities to recognize the benefits of conserving their forests for future generations.
The WTI have prioritized 88 elephant corridors currently in use throughout India where conservation efforts are needed to protect elephants in harmony with local communities. The Suffolk based World Land Trust WLT has been raising funds to enable WTI to purchase and protection some of these areas since 2002. A donation of just £50 to WLT will enable the purchase and protection of One Acre of threatened habitat and help the WTI protect more of these important corridors for the future.
Learn more about the Wild Lands Elephant Corridor Project in India.