Spatio-Temporal Analysis of Human-Elephant Conflict and Mapping the Landscape connectivity for Asian Elephant among the fragmentated habitat in Keonjhar District, India
Escalation of human-elephant conflict (HEC) threatens the wellbeing of both Asian elephants and victimized communities in India, which is home to 60% of total Asian elephant population. HEC in India has led to 2,381 humans and 490 elephant death during 2014-2019, with annually 500,000 families affected through crop raiding. Conservation of this endangered species necessitates HEC neutralization, which is a challenge in India with its rapidly growing human population and economy. Most mitigation projects isolate elephants, human-centric concerns and are questionable due to lack of data and inadequate understanding of HEC patterns. We focused on Keonjhar District, rampant with HEC, also famous for breeding tuskers, which is a prospect for conservation.
Study objectives were to; (1)and temporal pattern of HEC distribution and map major HEC hotspots; (2)assess the changes in HEC spatial risk; (3)predict elephant occupancy and analyze elephants’ habitat connectivity.
We found that; (1)intensity of house damage, human death and injury has declined, while crop-raiding has intensified since 2009; (2)winter season has significantly higher risk of HEC; (3)HEC patterns appeared to be clustered, where the spatial risk which intensified since 2006, rapidly shifted from the central region towards the north; (4)least-cost pathways among the five habitat cores were mapped, where four barrier patches were found, majorly of agriculture, road-railway and built-ups.
This case study which can be utilized as baseline data, also addresses knowledge gaps in HEC distribution to ensure better responsiveness and preparedness. Regional-scale connectivity and barrier analysis facilitates HEC mitigation planning and elephant conservation in human-dominated landscapes.