May 14, 2024


Have India’s wildlife corridors been effective?

(Image credit: Siddhesh S Nimkar, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Maharashtra State Forest Department has decided to relocate tigers from the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) to help revive its population in the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve (STR). The key to this is the Sahyadri-Konkan wildlife corridor that comprises forests in STR, Goa, and Karnataka and if it’s free of human settlements and interference.

The country’s wildlife heritage is under threat as human-animal conflicts intensify. With increased urbanisation and encroachments, conservation efforts face immediate challenges. Wildlife corridors are seen as a saviour for many species, apart from tigers. Have they been successful in India?


A wildlife corridor is a strip of habitat that connects larger ecosystems that could be fragmented by human settlements or infrastructure. These spaces allow wildlife to move across ecosystems to forage for food, migration, and mating.

These corridors don’t have to always be natural. They can be man-made by constructing overpasses or underpasses. One example is the “bee highway” in Oslo, which consists of strategically planned beehives, parks, and green roofs. In India, there’s an overpass built on National Highway-7 protecting the migratory route of tigers underneath between the Kanha and Pench Tiger Reserves.

While wildlife corridors can be for different animal species, the Indian government recognises tiger and elephant corridors. Why these two? It’s probably because their population numbers are concerning, given their shrinking habitats.

India has the highest number of wild Asian Elephants at about 30,000. That number is always in danger of drastically reducing. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) stated that for the tiger population to be genetically viable, its strength should be between 80 and 100, including at least 20 females. The Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) has estimated that no tiger population in Central India meets this criteria.

The problem in demarcating these corridors is they’re fragmented. It’s one of the reasons why there are instances of human-animal conflicts. Animals are forced to venture into human settlements. By the 2020s, over 500 people were killed in encounters with elephants. States have been trying different methods to mitigate these instances by digging trenches, building different kinds of fences, relocating villages, etc. Some of the more recent techniques include trip alarms and drones.

Images from Central India have shown that tigers use human-occupied areas and don’t stay within the narrow strips of the corridors. They use larger areas that are generally unprotected forest areas. This is why conservationists have talked about enhancing habitats and making them better connected without human interference. They’ve also said that relocation isn’t the solution to help increase the tiger population, for example.

Given how important wildlife corridors are to conservation, how has India fared?

VIEW: A general success

One of the first positive steps India took was enacting the Wildlife (Protection) Act in 1972. It provided a legal framework for conservation in India. Then came the 1980 Forest Conservation Act. Another positive development was officials realising there needed to be a long-term strategy. That came in the form of the 1983 National Wildlife Action Plan (NWAP). The second edition of the NWAP recognised that conservation should look beyond national parks and sanctuaries and include ecological corridor links.

The NTCA recognised 32 tiger corridors, and the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) identified 101 elephant corridors. Apart from these, researchers identified others like the Mt Abu–Jessore Corridor in Gujarat. The Terai Arc Landscape, which spans 13 different protected areas in India and Nepal, is one example where officials recognised that the parks and reserves weren’t enough to house species like the Bengal tiger and the Indian rhino. Once they were linked in 2000, the corridor has become a mainstay.

The good news is that entities like the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) keep states in check. Last year, the CAG pulled up the Gujarat government for not recognising an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) that recommended improving habitats in potential wildlife corridors. Technology like satellite imaging and mapping have not helped identify new corridors and better manage existing ones.

COUNTERVIEW: Corridors under threat

The problem in India is that conservation is still usually focused on forests and protected areas. There’s also a very narrow view of wildlife corridors. It doesn’t go beyond tigers and elephants. India hasn’t recognised marine corridors or mapped flyways for birds. Some existing corridors don’t get enough attention and aren’t properly maintained. They’re also increasingly fragmented, and officials have a tough time dispersing human settlements.

Current rules remain restrictive since they don’t link conservation and local economies. A good start would be a regional land use policy to bring together all stakeholders to create a plan that integrates conservation and economic development. Consensus Connectivity Areas (CCAs), which are regions highlighted as important across several studies, overlap with forest department management boundaries, and many are within 1 km of infrastructure like roads, railways, and transmission lines.

As far as policy and legislation are concerned, it’s not exactly good news. The Forest Conservation Amendment (FCA) Bill passed last year threatens corridors. It exempts strategic linear projects of national importance and security from needing environmental clearance to clear forests within 100 km of international borders. It’s because of linear projects that corridors have become nonfunctional. Past government reports have recorded the adverse impacts of infrastructure projects that seem to have been ignored.

Reference Links:

  • Maharashtra to translocate tigers to Sahyadri reserve: Role of wildlife corridors in tiger conservation – Indian Express
  • What are wildlife corridors? – Mongabay
  • Waking to the call of the wild – The Hindu
  • CAG pulls up Guj forest dept for ignoring Isro report on wildlife corridors – Business Standard
  • The Curious Case of India’s Wildlife Corridors – Wildlife Conservation Trust
  • Shrinking Elephant Corridors Of India – Wildlife SOS
  • Govt Reports Warn How India’s New Forest Law Will Accelerate Fragmentation Of Critical Animal Corridors – Article 14

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) India’s wildlife corridors have been effective.

b) India’s wildlife corridors have been ineffective.


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