Elephant corridor through Indo-Bangla border in talks

The Indian union home ministry has agreed to sign an agreement with Bangladesh to open the borders to allow a cross-border natural elephant corridor between the two countries so that wild elephants can have an easier and safer passage.

Indian newspaper New Indian Express ran a report on January 26, which said the Indian home ministry had cleared the proposal after getting the approval from the country’s forest department.

“The Indian side have given the clearance; now we have to make our move so that the agreement can be sealed soon,” said Yunus Ali, chief conservator of forests at the Forest Department in Bangladesh.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests will now communicate with the Ministry of Home Affairs to collaborate with the law enforcement agencies, especially Border Guard Bangladesh, regarding the corridor, he said.

The natural routes for elephants across the Bangladesh-India border are currently all blocked by a fence put up by the Indian authorities, which causes wild elephants to stray from track and end up in human habitats, often resulting in human-elephant conflicts.

According to Forest Department, at least 226 people and 62 elephants have been killed in such conflicts in the country in the last 13 years.

In addition, elephant attacks have destroyed thousands of homes and crop fields in the areas near the border in the country. Being a flagship or umbrella species, elephants are considered a symbol of a healthy ecosystem, but they are currently critically endangered in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh now accounts for around 200 wild elephants, though the number was above 500 in the mid 20th century.

The number of wild elephants has decreased in Asia in the last two centuries because of fragmentation and destruction of their habitat, caused by expansion of agriculture and human settlement.

To prevent elephant extinction in this region, a meeting between Bangladesh and India was held last year under a project titled ‘Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Wildlife Protection’ to convince the two governments, said Akbar Hossain, deputy chief conservator of forests.

The meeting prompted the Indian forest department to send the proposal of opening the natural elephant corridors across the border to their home ministry, said Akbar, also the director of the World Bank-funded project.

Seven locations along the Bangladesh-India border have already been identified that elephants usually use as their passage routes. The locations are in the Indian states of Assam, Tripura and Mizoram along the Bangladesh border.

Ishtiaq Uddin Ahmed, country representative of International Union for Conservation of Nature Bangladesh, said: “If the natural corridors are open, the conflict between humans and elephants will be reduced, as will other damages such as destruction of crops and houses. If elephants are left alone in peace, they will not cause any harm.” 

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