Connect with us

News

Human activities in Asia have reduced elephant habitat by nearly two-thirds since 1700

Published

on

Although elephants can cross roads and other infrastructure, elephant habitats across Asia are increasingly hemmed in, with firm boundaries between human and wildlife spaces. These elephants are in Sri Lanka. Photo: Shermin de Silva

Despite their iconic status and long association with humans, Asian elephants are one of the most endangered large mammals, Down to Earth reported.Believed to number between 45,000 and 50,000 individuals worldwide, they are at risk throughout Asia due to human activities, such as deforestation, mining, dam building and road construction, which have damaged numerous ecosystems.

My colleagues and I wanted to know when human actions started to fragment wildlife habitats and populations to the degree seen today. We quantified these impacts by considering them through the needs of this species.

In a newly published study, we examined the centuries-long history of Asian landscapes that once were suitable elephant habitat and often were managed by local communities, prior to the colonial era.In our view, understanding this history and restoring some of these relationships may be the key to living with elephants, and other large wild animals, in the future.

How have humans affected wildlife?

It isn’t easy to measure human impacts on wildlife across a region as large and diverse as Asia and more than a century ago. Historical data for many species is sparse. Museums, for instance, only contain specimens collected from certain locations.

Many animals also have very specific ecological requirements, and there often isn’t sufficient data on these features, at a fine scale, going far into the past. For instance, a species might prefer particular microclimates or vegetation types that occur only at particular elevations.

For nearly two decades, I’ve been studying Asian elephants. As a species, these animals are breathtakingly adaptable: They can live in seasonally dry forests, grasslands or the densest of rain forests.

If we could match the habitat requirements of elephants to data sets showing how these habitats changed over time, we knew that we could understand how land-use changes have affected elephants and other wildlife in these environments.

Dramatic declines

Land-use patterns changed significantly on every continent, starting with the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s, and extending through the colonial era into the mid-20th century. Asia was no exception.

For most areas, we found that suitable elephant habitat took a steep dive around this time. We estimated that from 1700 through 2015 the total amount of suitable habitat decreased by 64 percent.

More than 1.2 million square miles (three million square kilometers) of land were converted for plantations, industry and urban development. With respect to potential elephant habitat, most of the change occurred in India and China, each of which saw conversion in more than 80 percent of these landscapes.

In other areas of Southeast Asia — such as a large hot spot of elephant habitat in central Thailand, which was never colonized — habitat loss happened more recently, in the mid-20th century. This timing corresponds to logging concurrent with the so-called Green Revolution, which introduced industrial agriculture to many parts of the world.

Could the past be the key to the future?

Looking back at land-use change over centuries makes it clear just how drastically human actions have reduced habitat for Asian elephants. The losses that we measured greatly exceed estimates of “catastrophic” human impacts on so-called wilderness or forests within recent decades.

Our analysis shows that if you were an elephant in the 1700s, you might have been able to range across 40 per cent of the available habitat in Asia with no problem, because it was one large, contiguous area that contained many ecosystems where you could live. This enabled gene flow among many elephant populations. But by 2015, human activities had so drastically fragmented the total suitable area for elephants that the largest patch of good habitat represented less than 7 per cent of it.

Sri Lanka and peninsular Malaysia have a disproportionately high share of Asia’s wild elephant population, relative to available elephant habitat area. Thailand and Myanmar have smaller populations relative to area. Interestingly, the latter are countries known for their large captive or semi-captive elephant populations.

Less than half of the areas that contain wild elephants today have adequate habitat for them. Elephants’ resulting use of increasingly human-dominated landscapes leads to confrontations that are harmful for both elephants and people.

However, this long view of history reminds us that protected areas alone are not the answer, since they simply cannot be large enough to support elephant populations. Indeed, human societies have shaped these very landscapes for millennia.

Today there is a pressing challenge to balance human subsistence and livelihood requirements with the needs of wildlife. Restoring traditional forms of land management and local stewardship of these landscapes can be an essential part of protecting and recovering ecosystems that serve both people and wildlife in the future.The Conversation. Down to Earth



Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

News

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi premises becomes a net zero carbon emission zone

Published

on

By

President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced plans to implement a program aimed at transforming Anuradhapura, once a major trade and economic center, into a globally renowned city. He emphasized the need to highlight Anuradhapura’s cultural, educational, commercial, and economic values and to initiate archaeological research to bring its significance to the world stage. While cities like Tanjore, Madras, and Sanchipuram receive global attention, Anuradhapura has yet to be developed to the same extent.

The President mentioned that he would discuss these plans with the Director General of UNESCO, who is visiting Sri Lanka this week. Several universities worldwide have already expressed interest in supporting these initiatives.

President Wickremesinghe made these remarks during the ceremony to commission the 150-kilowatt solar power system installed by the LTL Group at the historic Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya premises in Anuradhapura on Saturday (13) morning . He also stated that the government would support powering the Atamasthana and the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi premises.

During his visit to the Anuradhapura shrine, the President met with the Chief Incumbent of the Atamasthana in Anuradhapura and Chief Sanghanayake Thera of Nuwara Kalaviya Most Ven. Dr. Pallegama Hemarathana Nayake Thera and engaged in a brief discussion. After paying obeisance to the historic Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi and receiving blessings, he participated in the commissioning of the  solar power system.

Additionally, President Wickremesinghe interacted with the public gathered at the Anuradhapura sacred grounds, engaging in friendly conversations and gathering their input.

In a significant move towards the government’s national policy of reducing carbon emissions and achieving a zero-emission target, LTL Holdings has dedicated a 150-kilowatt solar power system to Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. This marks the first phase of its net zero carbon emission plan.

This solar power system meets the entire power requirement of the Sri Maha Bodhiya precinct, making the premises of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi a net zero carbon emission zone for the first time in history.

Continue Reading

News

Dispute over cobalt-rich seabed: FSP alleges India exploiting hapless Lanka

Published

on

Pubudu Jagoda

… Indian HC denies dispute

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top spokesperson for Jana Aragala Sandhanaya, Pubudu Jagoda, yesterday (12) said that India was brazenly exploiting the continuing political and economic crisis here to secure rights to explore a cobalt-rich underwater mountain in the Indian Ocean, situated in an area staked by Sri Lanka in terms of Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Jagoda, who also represents the Peratugaami Pakshaya (Frontline Socialist Party), a breakaway faction of the JVP, said so when The Island sought further clarification after he discussed the developing situation with India, in an interview with Asoka Dias on Sirasa ‘Pathikada.’ telecast earlier in the day.

Jagoda told The Island that the unprecedented Indian move on Afanasy Nikitin seamount that lies entirely within an area, also claimed by Sri Lanka way back in 2009 as being within the boundaries of its continental shelf, should be a warning to both the government and the Opposition.

The former JVPer declared that Jana Aragala Sandhanaya would take up this issue vigorously in the run-up to the forthcoming presidential election. Jagoda emphasized that India took advantage of hapless Sri Lanka while frequently uttering like a mantra its self-proclaimed Neighbourhood First Policy and Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR). The Peratagaamis-led grouping recently pledged to contest both the Presidential and Parliamentary polls.

While asserting that political parties represented in Parliament, along with the government, lacked the courage to take up this issue with India, Jagoda therefore urged the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to deal with it diplomatically at the highest level.

The Indian High Commission spokesperson said there was no dispute and asked The Island to refer to a statement dated July 08, 2024 issued by Sri Lanka Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Appearing on ‘Pathikada’, Jagoda questioned the failure on the part of the government to respond to the Indian move much earlier.

Pointing out that India sought the intervention of Kingston Jamaica-based International Seabed Authority (ISA) to secure approval for exploration of cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts located at the Afanasy Nikitin seamount thereby undermined Sri Lanka’s efforts to win recognition of the outer limits of its continental shelf, Jagoda said that India seemed to be resorting once again to bullying tactics.

War-winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who always jealously guarded the country’s interests, made Sri Lanka’s claim on May 08, 2009, as ground forces were engaged in the last phase of operations on the Vanni east front. The war was brought to a successful conclusion 10 days later.

Jagoda explained how India unfairly pressured Sri Lanka over Chinese research ship visits, finally leading to the government to declare a ban on such stays during whole of this year. The FSP spokesman also expressed concerns over the Katchatheevu issue, massive Indian poaching and the recent death of a Special Boat Squadron (SBS) member as a result of aggressive maneuvers resorted to by an intercepted trawler off Kankesanthurai.

Jagoda alleged that poaching on such a scale couldn’t take place without India’s tacit approval. “They have a much bigger Navy and significant Coast Guard assets therefore there cannot be any excuse for not being able to effectively hinder crossing of the Indo-Lanka maritime boundary at will by their poachers,” Jagoda said. Declaring that destructive bottom trawling had been banned in Indian waters though the invading Indian fishing fleet freely adopted the highly harmful method in our waters, Jagoda alleged that New Delhi conveniently turned a blind eye to what was going on in the neighbour’s waters.

Referring to the dispute over the Indian claim contrary to that of Sri Lanka, the FSPer said the Indian media coverage of the issue indicated that they intended to go ahead with the exploration of the cobalt rich region. Reference was made to India reaching agreement with Taiwan to undertake the exploration amidst rising tensions between China and India.

Acknowledging that the two issues – Sri Lanka’s submission made in terms of UNCLOS in 2009 and India’s appeal to ISA this year – were before the UN as declared by Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry, Jagoda said that the government should discuss the contentious matters with India without further delay.

Jagoda said that no political party represented in Parliament so far commented on the developing situation.

Continue Reading

News

Another FR petition to stay Presidential Poll at 11th hour

Published

on

Another fundamental rights petition was filed in the Supreme Court yesterday (12), requesting the court to prevent the Election Commission from declaring the next presidential election.The petitioner, a lawyer by profession, has argued that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which reduced the President’s tenure to five years from six, was not passed properly.

He has argued that the 19A must be approved by the people at a referendum and holding a presidential election, as per the aforementioned amendment, is a violation of the Constitution.

The members of the Elections Commission, the Secretary General of the Parliament and the AG were named as respondents.

The petition says that the 19th Amendment strips the President of the power to dissolve Parliament a year after it was elected. The Supreme Court at that time said the provision had to be approved by the people at a referendum for it to become law. A referendum was never held, and therefore 19A could not be considered law.

The petitioner has said the Elections Commission is planning to hold a presidential election this year based on 19A and that it is unconstitutional to hold the election until 19A is subjected to a referendum.

The petitioner has asked the Supreme Court to declare the holding a presidential election, five years into the term of the President, unconstitutional. He also urged the court to instruct the Secretary General of Parliament to subject 19A to a referendum.

Continue Reading

Trending