Kochi: Voice for Asian Elephants Society (VFAES), a US-based conservation outfit, in collaboration with its Indian partner, Nature Mates Nature Club (NMNC), on Thursday announced its decision to donate four acres of land to the Kerala Forest Department as part of its rewilding efforts.
The private plantation land adjacent to the Nedumkayam forest of Nilambur South Forest Division will be handed over to the forest department for rewilding, securing elephant habitat, and ensuring the preservation of wildlife.
The area would subsequently form part of the Nilambur Elephant Reserve area, NGO officials said.
Rewilding is the process of restoring an area of land to its natural uncultivated state often facilitating the reintroduction of wildlife driven out of there.
VFAES and NMNC will submit a document to Kerala Forest Department on Friday pledging to gift the land to the forest department which will solidify the commitment to rewilding and maintaining the land as a natural habitat in perpetuity.
The initiative aligns with the provisions of the Kerala Forest Act 1961 and the Rebuild Kerala initiatives of the state government. It aims to foster the regeneration of native and endemic species, allowing wild elephants and other wildlife to graze freely without human interference.
This initiative highlights the need to conserve elephant habitats as well as their migratory paths, given that the ancient elephant migratory pathways and corridors have been disrupted, currently posing significant safety concerns for people and elephants.
Nedumkayam forest is home to 340 elephants. The forest department identified the land to be purchased as the organisations proposed their idea to donate a plot. Sangita Iyer, the founding executive director of Voice for Asian Elephants, said as a first step in rewilding the land, all electric fences installed in the plot will be removed. Sangita, a well-known elephant conservator who directed the widely acclaimed documentary “Gods in Shackles”, the elephants in the area will be able to roam around freely once the fencing is removed.
"Gifting the land to the forest department for rewilding will highlight the issue of conserving elephant habitats and corridors which will also help mitigate human-elephant conflict by preventing elephants from straying out of their habitats, and foster a peaceful coexistence,” she said.
Sangita said the plight of Arikomban, the wild tusker which was relocated from Chinnakanal in Kerala, was one of the inspirations behind the land donation project. “Arikkomban inspired me to pursue this project and buy the land. There will be no more Arikkomban or Chakkakomban if more such projects are carried out,” she said. She was critical of the decision to trans-locate the elephant instead of relocating the people who wanted to leave the area.
Sangita Iyer, Vijayananthan IFS, DFO Praveen and Arjan Basu Roy, secretary, Nature Mates Nature Club attended the press conference.