Conflict of Interest : Case of Kodagu Elephants

Kodagu District is located to the southeastern side of the Southern Indian state of Karnataka. The study was conducted in Madikeri Division, Virajpet Division and Nagarhole National Park of Kodagu district. Kodagu is almost encircled by forests that are found along all its borders except in the northern part of the District. Kodagu is known as the coffee bowl of Karnataka. Its landscape is dominated by coffee plantations, which form 21 % of its land cover. The other important plantation crop is cardamom, which is grown mainly in the hilly high rainfall areas in the western parts of the district. Other crops grown are rice, maize, pepper, coconut, areca nut, banana and a variety of fruits such as jackfruit, orange and guava. The main objectives of this study were to evaluate the reasons for elephant conflict and the effectiveness of various elephant control measures and based on the study  make recommendations for control of elephant depredations in the area. 

Totally 4599 crop damage cases were collected and patterns of crop damage in the district were analyzed. There was a peak in number of cases in November and December corresponding to the paddy ripening season and a smaller peak in July and August. The peak in August corresponded to non-cereal crops while the peak in November-December corresponded to cereal crops, especially paddy. Crop damage cases were plotted on a map of Kodagu District. Crop damage was found to occur in four main pockets, the eastern region around Yedvnad-Anekad forests, the Western region around Hammiyala, the northern region around Kattepura RF and the southern region around Brahamgiri sanctuary.

We carried out (i) a time-series analysis of the crop damage cases to arrive at patterns of intensity of conflict, (ii) a spatial-temporal analysis of crop damage cases, (iii) An analysis of the effectiveness of control structures by Kaplan-Meir Survival curves, (iv) A spatial-temporal analysis of human injury and death cases. Five variables were found to be important for determining persistence of conflict:

The time-dependent event history variable was found to be the most important factor for determining persistence of conflict. The incidence of crop damage cases in a given area decreased with increase in tribal population density. Conflict intensity was found to be higher near shelter habitats (Reserved Forest) but was found to be lower near protected area.

Impact of EPTs and solar fences was evaluated on conflict intensity in nearby villages. It was found that presence of barriers did not have any influence on in reducing conflict for the first 5 years. After 5 years the villages near barriers showed higher levels of conflict than those without barriers.  Barriers were therefore not effective in reducing conflict.

Supported by Karnataka Forest Department and Asian Elephant Conservation Fund, USFWS