Top conservation practitioners come together to discuss Corridors, Connectivity and Landscapes for wildlife conservation

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New Delhi: A three-day workshop was organised from 7-9 May by WWF-India and WWF Tigers Alive in New Delhi to deliberate on landscape connectivity. Attended by more than 60 representatives from WWF landscapes across India, Nepal, Russia, China, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, and Cambodia; governments of India, and Malaysia; the IUCN, and Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT), and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the group discussed the importance and challenges of maintaining and securing wildlife landscapes in an increasingly crowded space.

The workshop kicked off with representatives from WWF and India’s leading decision makers from Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Global Tiger Forum, and UP Forest Department assessing and identifying locations of corridors in wildlife landscapes. The sessions looked at the challenges of securing corridors for wildlife movement in the face of growing anthropogenic pressures and infrastructure development. National and international landscape experts presented evidences where large animals like tigers and elephants regularly use human-dominated areas in unpredictable ways.

The workshop went on to explore current approaches to monitoring connectivity, corridor structure and functionality, the application of contemporary modelling and genetic tools to design corridors for the future, and partnerships required to monitor corridors. In order to understand corridors and connected landscapes better, long-term corridor monitoring programmes including tools, techniques, innovations and large scale monitoring frameworks were assessed. The group also looked at ways of making monitoring these corridors more participative by involving local communities. Cases of corridor policy in Australia and Malaysia were also presented where sound policy frameworks have helped integrate corridor management strategies.

The final day detailed out the key elements of a corridor conservation policy with discussions around key actions, processes, tools and legal instruments that need to be in place to help build a stronger framework for corridors. Also, part of the discussions was emerging fields in connectivity conservation such as climate change, and expansion in agriculture and commodities.

Speaking on the need to secure connectivity in an increasingly human-dominated landscape, Dr. Ashley Brooks, Lead, Human-Wildlife Conflict and Habitats, WWF Tigers Alive,“Many of WWF’s priority species are wide ranging and require connected habitats to persist in the wild. These wide ranging species are increasingly limited to fragmented areas surrounded by human-dominated landscapes, limiting their dispersal. Protecting and maintaining functionality of some of the important wildlife corridors is thus crucial for the long-term survival of wildlife.”

Dr. Anup Kumar Nayak, Member Secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authoritysaid, “I would like to congratulate WWF on effectively working on the challenges and complexities of maintaining connected landscapes. Although the concept of corridors was introduced many years back, it has gained importance only recently. There is a growing need to take this discussion from national level to the state level, involving government agencies.”

Dr. Dipankar Ghose, Director of the Species and Landscapes Programme, WWF-India said, “In discussion with the landscape conservationists, guidelines on four themes related to connectivity, namely, design, monitoring, management, and policy, have been drafted with an emphasis on engagement with government agencies and community stakeholders and effective, and pragmatic action bolstered by science.As a way forward, WWF-India landscape teams will work towards building a coordinated strategy and develop action plans to maintain them.”