WTI in collaboration with the Kerala Forest Department, supported by Elephant Family, IUCN Netherlands and World Land Trust (WLT) secured the Tirunelli-Kudrakote elephant corridor land from four village settlements Thirulakunnu, Valiya emmadi, Kottapady and Puliyankolly and voluntarily relocated people to alternate site. The first two village settlement land has become part of Wayand Wildlife Sanctuary and the land from Kottapadi has been notified as Reserve Forest under Wayanad North Forest Division, and will be managed as part of the Wayanad Wildlife Division. Puliyankolly settlement was forest land that has been leased to the villagers and on securing by WTI was incorporated as part of Wayanad North Forest Division.
The Thirunelli – Kudrakote corridor is important to maintain habitat contiguity of elephant populations in the Western Ghats. The elephant habitats of north Karnataka along the Brahmagiri Hills are connected to those on the Coorg plateau (also in Karnataka) through the northern Wayanad region of Kerala. The southern tip of the Brahmagiris extends into Kerala’s Wayanad North Forest Division, where the Tirunelli Reserve Forest and Kudrakote Reserve Forest provide a narrow eastward connection to the Tholpetty Range of Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. However, wildlife movement, especially elephants has been hindered due to human settlement within the corridor that lies in Wayanad North Division and Wayanad WLS.
Dr Sandeep Tiwari, Head, Wild Lands, WTI, said, “The corridor had six villages inside it, of which four (Thirulakunnu, Valiya emmadi, Kottapady and Puliyankolly) were strategically located at points that considerably reduced the effective width of the corridor. Securing these four settlements for elephant corridor land was crucial and Kerala Forest Department’s notification giving legal protection to the land is a major boost for our efforts”.
Wayanad Corridor Securement Project was started by WTI in 2004-05 with the aim of securing the corridor by purchasing land owned by the villagers and/or providing suitable alternate land and rehabilitation package for economically backward villagers. The project was undertaken with Prior Informed Consent of all villagers, assessing long-term socio-economic status and aspirations of the villagers. All governmental authorities were consulted and requisite permissions obtained for the rehabilitation and securing land. WTI has in the course of the last one decade has relocated 38 families from the four critical villages in Wayanad through this rehabilitation package that included alternate land for settlement and agriculture, new houses, water facilities and other basic amenities.