I just read a paper titled “Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) habitat use and ranging in fragmented rainforest and plantations in the Anamalai Hills, India, authored by Kumar, M. A., Mudappa, D. and Raman in Tropical Conservation Science.
The study says Asian elephants living in a mix of fragmented forests and agricultural landscapes still depend heavily on natural landscapes—rivers and forests—for survival. Forest fragments and riparian vegetation play important roles in the ecology of elephants. Conserving these patches and protecting them from further degradation is crucial for conservation of elephants as they are highly dependent on natural vegetation despite its patchy and clumped distribution.
The elephants spend lot of time near rivers and forest fragments. In an area covered with coffee, tea and eucalyptus the elephants avoided tea as far as possible. Time spent in tea plantations was mainly for nighttime crossing of the landscape. Grass growth in plantations of coffee and Eucalyptus appeared to provide cover and fodder for elephants. The concentration of elephants along a major riparian system in the center of the landscape emphasized the role of water and food availability in habitat use during the dry season
The authors say logging should be prohibited within 20 meters of rivers, to ensure elephants room to forage. The study recommends promoting coffee and Eucalyptus over tea plantations. Coffee has the advantage of having lot of shade trees.
The authors conclude that Protection of rainforest fragments, secondary vegetation along rivers, and regulated and sequential felling (instead of clear-felling) of Eucalyptus along elephant movement routes will help retain forage, cover, and passage routes of elephant herds and may reduce direct human-elephant encounters in such fragmented landscapes