Elephant and Park Research Project
Climate change and the conflict between humans and elephants (Elephas maximus) in the Teknaf Game
The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is found in 13 countries in South and Southeast Asia included in Bangladesh and listed as an endangered species by the IUCN Red Data Book and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. In-total, between 38,000 and 50,000 Asian elephants remain in the wild, along with about 13,000 trained domestic elephants. Elephants feed on a variety of plants, although certain plant families such as Poaceae (grasses), Cyperaceae (sedges), Palmae (palms), and Fabaceae (legumes) are liked by the giant creature. Elephants spend more than 12 hours a day in feeding, and their choice of plant species and plant parts varies considerably with season. Recent studies show that the browsed plants generally provide more carbon (protein) for growth, and therefore the preservation of browsed-rich habitats is important for elephant conservation (Sukumar, 1993). However, global warming is one of the major causes of species extinctions, and this combined with other existing problems (e.g., destruction & fragmentation of habitats, and uncontrolled & unsustainable human development); will push Asian elephants over the edge of extinction unless drastic measures are taken immediately. It is unknown whether the elephants will be able adapt to changing climate, and if yes, how they will adapt. For example, shortage of food (i.e., plant species) because of changed rainfall patterns may provide an indication of the effect of climate change on existing elephants. There are preliminary indications that extreme weather conditions such as drought are changing the distribution, and in some cases, biology of elephant, prompting to suggest that existing measures to conserve them may no longer be efficient enough.
Many reports on elephant conservation blame local people as an obstacle for the management and recovery of elephant populations. Human intolerance of elephant is often based on the agro-horticultural crops and humans. Populations of Asian Elephant are unable to persist under human land uses that enhance conflicts over habitat. Recent trend of climate change seems to influence such conflicts, warranting detail investigation to understand how the recent trend of climate change influences such conflicts. The human attitude in respect to gender towards elephant has not been studied adequately, although women are often the primary users of forests. A few studies mention the issue of gender in shaping attitudes toward wildlife and vulnerability to wildlife-related problems, which are related to cultural and socioeconomic factors.
The major objectives of this study are to determine the environmental factors which influencing the status of prey abundance (i.e., vegetation) and how does prey abundance and their spatial distribution influence the frequency of crop raiding caused by elephant.
Teknaf Game Reserve, Bangladesh
Sumitra Sen (MPhil Research Fellow), Professor Dr. Manindra Kumar Roy and Professor Dr. Abdul Gofur Khan (Supervisors).
Sukumar, R. 1993. Minimum Viable Populations for Asian Elephant Conservation in A Week with Elephants, Proceedings of the International Seminar on Asian Elephants, B.N.H.S, Bombay and Oxford University Press, New Delhi.
Status of the research