By Kounteya Sinha
LONDON: World Land Trust is an international conservation charity, which protects the world's most biologically important and threatened habitats acre by acre. In one of its most ambitious projects till date, WLT has decided to fund purchase of alternate land for the Pannod villagers of Uttarakhand to move, as part of the path breaking project to create the Chilkiya-Kota elephant corridor in Uttarakhand. The corridor will permanently connect Corbett Tiger Reserve and Ramnagar forest division which is home to the highest density of tigers in the world, harbouring around 8% of India's entire Bengal Tiger population. In an exclusive interview to TOI's Kounteya Sinha, Mary McEvoy, conservation programmes manager of WLT says the cost of land in this area being bought for the Pannod villagers is the highest it has ever spent on any land acquisition project worldwide.
What are the projects that the trust is working on in India?
WLT has been working with the Wildlife Trust of India since 2003. Our joint programme was set up to fundraise and help save critically important "Elephant Corridors" throughout the country. In 2005 WTI published a book called Right of Passage which comprehensively mapped out 88 elephant corridors throughout India which they deemed to be critical for the survival of the Asian Elephant in India. These Elephant Corridors, if protected, will safeguard a network of forest corridors that will enable Indian Elephants and other animals, such as tigers, to move safely between protected areas, avoiding human-wildlife conflict and protecting continuous critical wildlife habitat.
Elephants are nomadic and their ecology is defined by the fact that they move from one location to another in order to find enough food, water and mating partners. Inevitably, in a country with over 1.2 billion people and rapidly developing infrastructure, this means that elephants and other wildlife species such as tiger, leopard and bear, frequently roam within landscapes dominated by human habitations, agricultural lands, busy roads and railways and industrial developments. In India, elephants act as a "flagship species" for our programme but in reality, saving an elephant corridor protects important habitats for a wealth of other wildlife species. The aim of the elephant corridors programme is to safeguard some of these important routes so wildlife can continue to co-exist with people. Often the solutions are complex, politicised and extremely expensive but WLT believes that India's wildlife is too precious to ignore this challenge. More....