The Trumpets of Corbett National Park
Nestled in the foothills of Himalayas, Jim Corbett National Park is one of the oldest national parks of India. It is situated in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand and is known for its diverse flora and fauna. The flora encompasses a wide spectrum of grasslands and trees. The fauna consists of well preserved tigers, due to which it is called a tigers paradise.
However, Corbett is not only about Tigers! It is also home to a huge population of elephants, reptiles, leopards, boars, deer, etc. and birds like lesser fish eagles, partridges, peacocks, rollers, quails, and woodpeckers. Corbett offers much more than we can consume! It is a haven for wildlife and so it is aptly called a land of Roar, Trumpet, and Song!
But, during summers, it is the trumpet that rules the roost! Here, during summers, elephants are an absolute delight to watch. With the onset of spring in April-June, tall grasses grow far and wide, attracting herds of the giants from the forest. You can see as many as 150 elephants, divided into small herds of about 10-20 each, ambling through the tall grasslands.
Elephants are social animals. They always move in herds and they socialise amongst themselves. They follow the law of a matriarchal society, with the oldest mama elephant leading and showing the way. And she does this with aplomb for a long long time. Elephants have a long life span, living to the grand old age of 70-75 years.
The elders of these matriarchal pachyderm society are extremely protective of younger ones. Even while crossing a road or a river, you can see that the young ones are protectively escorted. On terra firma, the herd will mock-charge, if not simply charge, tourist vehicles from time to time if it senses even a hint of a threat to the younglings.
These protective impatient giants just love to bathe on river banks. Bathing and splashing appears to be a pleasurable experience to these bathers and to the gazers as well, and is essential for the elephants. The trunk of the elephant is used like a pipe or a hose to spray water across the body. And after the splashing and thrashing in the cool water, to help protect the skin from parasites and biting insects, elephants wallow in mud or spray dust on their wet skin. Elephants also rub their body against the hard surface to remove parasites or insects wedged in their thick skins. Just goes to say that these strong giants are intelligent too.
The good news about these giants is that several reports, media and otherwise, point to an increase in the number of elephants in Corbett. The last census was held in 2007 with an elephant population of 1,346. Wildlife officials in 2015, estimated the present population to be over 1,600.
Although elephants are huge and weigh more than a tonne, elephants love to walk. And they are practically nomads and tread over a large habitat. An elephant doesn’t stick to a single territory and moves thousands of kilometres in search of jungles and forest cover and follow the same migratory routes generations after generations.
In recent times many of these migratory routes in India have been encroached upon by human activities which has seriously affected the freedom of movement of these gentle giants. The Indian population is dense as compared to many other countries and human settlements sprout in and around the trodden lands of the elephants. Slowly, the settlements grow and take away for cultivation what naturally belonged to the elephant. And so, slowly, the elephants. habitats shrink, resulting the pachyderms walking into the paddy fields of these settlements. And, as if this is not enough, humans have built and are building roads right through the habitats of these elephants. These roads and the consequent vehicular movements accentuate the fragmentation of the elephant’s habitats.
Such fragmentation coupled with reduction in the forest cover, recurrent eruptions of forest fires year after year due to low moisture and extreme heat, human-elephant conflict (Nearly 400 people and 100 elephants lose their lives due to this conflict every year across India) is endangering the very existence of these pachyderms. The other, equally big, threat that elephants face is poaching.. A lot of elephants are killed due to poaching for trading their ivory in many countries. Though selling of ivory is banned there still exists a clandestine market where buyers are willing to pay through their nose for the precious ivory.
States and governments and NGOs and wildlife activist need to work in close co-ordination to protect these magnificent and ecologically important animals from poaching and encroaching. Happily enough, the Indian government is taking measures to save elephants, one such being Project Elephant., which was launched by Government of India Ministry of Environment and Forests in Corbett to protect viable population of elephants in their natural habitats.
It is imperative that our generation must contribute in our own small ways to help preserve the natural habitats of these beautiful animals. Otherwise it won’t be too far in the future that our future generation will see these gentle giants only in books and not in the jungles and the forests.
Written by -Shiuli Mishra for ThrillTrails
Picture Courtesy- Varun Chopra (Founder – Jungle Safari)
& Ravi Shastri
“Nature has always been an inspiration throughout my life, and considers very lucky to have a wonderful mother who introduced me to the Mother Nature at a very young age. I grew up watching documentaries on Television and reading various books related to the wildlife, especially books by the famous hunter turned conservationist Jim Corbett. I have extensively explored Corbett, Rajaji, Ranthambhore and Bandhavgarh National parks for the nature & wildlife photography. I feel happy being in the field & tracking wild animals, than to sit in a cubicle in front of a machine the whole day”
Founder – Jungle Safari