By B.R. Rohith
BENGALURU: More than 13 years after getting its first elephant reserve, Karnataka, which boasts of the highest number of jumbos in India, has got a second haven for the gentle giants.
Following a nod from the Centre, the Karnataka government has notified Dandeli Elephant Reserve that spreads across Uttara Kannada, Belagavi, Haveri and Dharwad, covering an area extending up to 2,321sqkm. Conservationists welcomed the long-pending move, saying it's great news.
The Anshi-Dandeli forests in Uttara Kannada and neighbouring districts are home to 60-odd elephants. These forests will officially become the second home for jumbos as they are protected under Project Elephant, a centrally sponsored initiative launched in 1992 to protect the largest terrestrial mammal in India. Mysuru Elephant Reserve (MER), spread over 6,724 sqkm and stretching along eight districts, was notified in 2002. A copy of the gazette notification accessed by TOI, puts the core area of the reserve at 475 sqkm and the buffer zone at 1,846 sqkm.
Ajai Misra, additional principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), said the declaration of the reserve will help in ecological restoration of existing natural habitats and migratory routes of elephants. "There will be no rehabilitation challenges here as the notified area already comes under the reserved forest category. However, measures will be put in place to mitigate human-elephant conflict in border areas," he pointed out.
Giridhar Kulkarni, a conservationist in Uttara Kannada, said the move is crucial to reduce human, domestic stock activities in these elephant habitats. "The government should strengthen measures to protect elephants from poachers and unnatural deaths as the notification comes with a certain amount of funds for the state," he said.