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Asian Elephants of Nilgiri

2023 JAN 6

Preliminary   > Environment and Ecology   >   Species extinction & protection   >   Species in news

Why in news?

  • According to a study, the endangered Asian Elephant has lost most of its optimal habitat, the flat terrain in Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

More about the news:

  • The Western Ghats 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 Western Ghats includes Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve(NBR) and its surrounding 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.
  • 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.

About Nilgiris elephant corridor:

  • The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is the largest protected forest area in India. 
  • The Biosphere Reserve spreads across three states. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala.
  • It is situated in the ecologically fragile Sigur plateau. The plateau connects the Western and the Eastern Ghats. Apart from that, the plateau also sustains elephant populations and their genetic diversity.
  • It hosts forest systems, ranging from seasonal rain forests in the low hills, tropical montane Shola forests and grasslands in the higher reaches, and moist deciduous to scrub through dry-deciduous towards the plains in the Eastern end. 

About Asian Elephants:

  • There are three subspecies of Asian elephant which are the Indian, Sumatran and Sri Lankan.
  • The Indian subspecies has the widest range and accounts for the majority of the remaining elephants on the continent.
  • Global Population of Asian Elephants is estimated at 20,000 to 40,000.
  • Protection Status:
    • IUCN Red List: Endangered.
    • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I.
    • CITES: Appendix I


Consider the following statements:

1. Asian elephants are the second largest mammals on land.

2. India has the largest population of wild Asian elephants.

Which among the above statements is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2