Density Studies

Three seasons were identified based on the rainfall
pattern in the area. They are dry season, first and second
wet seasons. Seasonal distribution of elephants in relation
to environmental factors such as rainfall, food and water
availability and habitat utilisation of Asian elephants were
studied by several investigators in southern India
(Sukumar, 1985; Balakrishnan and Easa, 1986; Easa,
1989; Sivaganesan 1991). Density distribution of
elephants followed a clear pattern with a high density in
the periphery during dry season with a decrease in the
subsequent seasons. In dry season, the density of
elephants was highest in dry deciduous forests and least
in plantations. An increase was observed in moist
deciduous forests in the first and second wet season.

Density of the elephants in the entire region showed
annual differences. The estimate ranged from 1.02/km2 to
1.35 / Km2 in the southern regions. It was 0.25 to 0.92 in
northern and 0.53 to 0.85 in central region.  Density of
elephants in 1995 was the highest reported. The dry
season density of 2.78/km2 in dry deciduous forest during
1995 was quite unusual. The extensive fire in the adjacent
Mudumalai, and Bandipur could have triggered a mass
movement of elephants and a decrease in density in the
first wet season, (Easa, et al.: 1995).  There is a reported
decrease in density of elephants in the adjacent
Mudumalai during the dry season and an increase in the
subsequent wet season in the year 1995.

Density distribution of elephants in the area is mostly
influenced by the food and water availability, coupled with
disturbances due to human activities and fire. The
adjoining sanctuaries i.e., Bandipur and Mudumalai
receive comparatively lesser rainfall. Wayanad, which lies
on the western side of Western Ghats, receives two
monsoons, i.e., Southwest and Northeast. This results in
better biomass and more waterholes, many of which are
perennial Therefore a positive influx of the elephants to
the sanctuary is established during summer and thus
Wayanad wildlife sanctuary is a dry season refuge for the
elephants. The Southwest monsoon brings the greater
part of rainfall and a lesser extent by the Northeast
monsoon in October and November. An unprecedented
drought of 1996 resulted in large scale migration of
elephants to Wayanad. Rainfall data of the past 10 years
shows a trend of gradual reduction. Hence increase in
conflict can be expected in the future.
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