Kerala forest dept to accept land from NGO for elephant habitat restoration

Kerala forest
The proposed land is part of Sankarankode enclosure which is surrounded by new Amarambalam Reserve Forests and part of Nilambur Elephant Reserve. Photo: Special correspondent.

Kochi: Almost a year after an NGO offered to transfer four acres of land to the Kerala Forest Department for rewilding and elephant habitat restoration, the state government has given the nod for the same. The forest department has granted permission to the principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) and chief wildlife warden to take over and register the land in Karulai village of Malappuram district.

The land was purchased from private parties by the Voices for Asian Elephants (VFAE) in collaboration with its grassroots partner, Nature Mates Nature Club (NMNC). The proposed land is part of Sankarankode enclosure which is surrounded by new Amarambalam Reserve Forests and part of Nilambur Elephant Reserve and is an important habitat for variety of flaura and fauna including major mammals like elephant, tiger, leopard and sambar deer.

Nestled in the vicinity of the Karimpuzha Wildlife Sanctuary, Silent Valley National Park in Kerala, and Mukkurthy National Park in Tamil Nadu, the designated area boasts unparalleled conservation significance, ensuring the perpetuity of vital elephant habitats. Once the ownership of the land is transferred to the forest department, steps will be initiated to get it notified as reserved forest, K Vijayananthan, chief conservator of forest, Palakkad, told Onmanorama.

“The land is part of a 60-acre plot which was originally forest. Later, it was given away to farmers. There is no human inhabitation in the area, but there is some rubber and other crops farmed in certain parcels of land. The owners of the remaining portions are also willing to leave it to the forest department if there is someone to buy their land,” the officer said.

Sangita Iyer, founder of Voices for Asian Elephants, and director of the globally acclaimed documentary, Gods in Shackles said the rewilding of the 4 acres of plantation land marked a significant milestone in the NGO’s efforts to safeguard elephant habitat and preserve wildlife. “This initiative stands as a testament to collective resolve in protecting wildlife habitats and creating ecological harmony. We are honoured to collaborate with the Kerala Forest Department, and look forward to supporting future projects,'' she said.

The initiative to take over non-tribal land within forest enclosures for rewilding is part of the Rebuild Kerala project designed post the 2018 floods. The forest department has already received a stretch of land in Wayanad’s Thirunelly under the initiative.  

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