Transboundary Movement of Elephants in Eastern Nepal
ABSTRACT: Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) occur in four places in Nepal. The seasonal migrating elephants that move from West Bengal, India to Bahundangi of Jhapa, i.e., the eastern population, numbers 50-70 individuals and there is a resident herd of 10-13 individuals (Elephant Action Plan, 2007); the central population (40-50 individuals) is confined to Parsa Wildlife Reserve and recently has moved outside the reserve; the mid-west population of 70-80 individuals resides in Bardia National Park (Pradhan, 2007), while the far western population of 2-18 elephants are found in the Churia foothills (Velde, 1997). The study area is located in the three administrative districts namely Sunsari, Morang and Jhapa. These districts used to be a contiguous forest area and a free moving route for wild elephants before malaria was eradicated in the 1960s. Forest has been fragmented time and again whenever there is political instability and the settlement of emigrants from the hilly region and population growth are the main factors accelerating human-elephant conflicts (HEC). This study shows that Bahundangi, Jhapa is the main entry point of the migrating elephant herds. It was found that wild herds enter through a village in Bahundangi to reach the nearby forest (Telpani CF) north-west to Bahundangi. In Sunsari district human-elephant conflicts are highest in Prakashpur VDC and Kushaha VDC as Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is situated in this VDC and is home to five female domestic elephants. Morang district faces the least amount of human-elephant conflict in the region. The elephant population in eastern Nepal is under intense pressure for survival because the habitat has shrunk. Deforestation and rampant encroachment are major causes of human-elephant conflicts. Elephant habitat fragmentation and crop depredations along with human and elephant deaths due to the conflict has resulted in an antagonistic view by communities towards elephant.