Source: The post is based on the article “Asian elephant has lost most of its optimal habitat in Nilgiri Reserve” published in The Hindu on 6th January 2023
What is the News?
According to a study, the endangered Asian Elephant has lost most of its optimal habitat, the flat terrain in Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
About the study
Western Ghats(WG) is an escarpment running north–south along the western coastline of India.
The WG is interrupted towards the south by the low-lying Palghat Gap that separates the northern from the southern elephant populations.
The northern part of the WG includes Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve(NBR) and its surrounding PAs (protected areas) which contain the largest remaining population of wild elephants.
Earlier, the Palghat gap was relatively flat and consequently easily negotiable by elephants to move from North to South.
However, now human settlements and crop cultivation have hindered the movement of the elephants, keeping them confined to the hilly areas considered suboptimal habitats.
What has been the impact of this?
The study has shown that when barriers are erected, particularly in areas with slopes, elephant movement is blocked and gene flow is reduced. There will also be more in-breeding and low genetic diversity pushing up chances of disease and lowering fertility rates.
This could ultimately lead to increasing the extinction risk of this endangered species.