[Explainer] What are wildlife corridors?

  • Currently, India recognises tiger and elephant corridors. As tigers and elephants are umbrella species, their protection benefits a host of other wildlife and flora that inhabit the same landscape.
  • Conservation in India is focussed largely on forests. Marine wildlife corridors and flyways that behave as corridors for birds are largely fragmented and don’t get the same attention as terrestrial ecosystems.
  • The use of technology in managing wild spaces is rising steadily, with tools such as satellite imagery and GIS modelling helping observe populations. Researchers use remotely sensed data and data on animal movement to identify corridors.

Wildlife corridors are strips of habitats that connect larger landscapes or ecosystems which may be fragmented by human settlements, infrastructure and other forms of disturbances. These corridors allow for the movement of wildlife across ecosystems, to enable foraging for food, connecting different populations for mating and other motives for migration.

In certain countries, artificial wildlife corridors are constructed by way of overpasses or underpasses, as opposed to natural strips of habitat. For example, a ‘bee highway’ in Oslo consisting of strategically planned beehives, parks and green roofs allow pollinators to pass from Holmenkollen in the north-west to Lake Nøkkelvann in the south-east.

Corridors can also be classified according to their shape: linear, stepping stone and landscape corridors. In India, wildlife corridors are most often differently identified and managed depending on the umbrella species – usually a charismatic or iconic species that are the focus of conservation efforts – that frequents each one. Currently, the Indian government recognises tiger and elephant corridors. As umbrella species, tiger and elephant corridors benefit a host of other wildlife and flora that inhabit the same landscape.

Image shows a tiger in a dim undergrowth
A tiger in Jim Corbett national park in 2013. For a tiger population to be genetically viable, it must be 80 to 100 individuals strong. Photo by Dr. Satyabrata Ghosh/Wikimedia Commons.

Why are wildlife corridors important?

Corridors enable populations to sustain themselves better by way of allowing for larger scope for the breeding, feeding and migration of sub-populations across landscapes. Populations need to migrate to maintain genetic diversity, which is important for building resilience to environmental changes and diseases. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) recommends that for a tiger population to be genetically viable, it must be 80 to 100 individuals strong, including at least 20 females who are capable of breeding. Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) estimates that no tiger populations in the Central Indian landscape meet this requirement, thus emphasising the need for wildlife corridors to offer breeding opportunities.

The plethora of issues within wildlife conservation that are caused by fragmentation of habitats may also be alleviated by healthy corridors. India’s National Wildlife Plan 2017-2031 (NWAP) attributes increasingly aggravated human-wildlife conflict in many parts of the country to the fragmentation of habitats, which forces animals to venture into human settlements and encounter people in unpredictable ways, especially in the case of elephants.

Map of corridors in India. Image source NTCA.

Conservation goals may not be achieved solely with the growth of threatened populations, unless habitats are enhanced and better connected simultaneously. An example is the recovery of nilgai and blackbuck populations that led to increased conflict in agricultural lands neighbouring their habitats as more animals ventured into these spaces. These animals may accidentally attack farmers with the intention of self-protection or cause damage to crops. However, this movement is not singularly attributed to increasing populations – the planting of crops more preferred by wildlife or erratic climate impacts such as droughts can also encourage wildlife to step into agricultural lands which in turn can impact the livelihood of people dependent on these lands. Thus, effectively conserved wildlife corridors may address some livelihood concerns of people living on the fringes.

Linear infrastructures, such as roads and railways, that cut through habitats are often noted to impact wildlife populations and movement, as seen through data on roadkill and rail collisions, as animals are left with no choice but to risk crossing these structures. WCT’s citizen science initiative estimates that at least 150 elephants were killed on the railways from 2011-2019. According to Wildlife Protection Society of India, in 2023, seven tigers were killed by linear infrastructure. Corridors can provide animals with safe passage, thus reducing such incidents on roads and railways.

A study by WCT states that though central India harbours nearly 35% of the country’s tiger population, not a single tiger sub-population in the region is genetically viable on its own, meaning there isn’t enough genetic diversity within the population to support the breeding of healthy individuals. 

A warning sign about the Himalayan marmot near Leh. Photo by KishanSisangia/Wikimedia Commons.

What is the status of corridors in India?

In 2019, the Press Information Bureau published on behalf of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change a list of 32 tiger corridors identified by the NTCA and Wildlife Institute of India (WII). In 2017, the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) identified 101 elephant corridors. In 2023, the number of elephant corridors identified by the Centre came up to 150. Wildlife corridors frequented by other species are yet to be identified by the Government of India.

NWAP acknowledges that wildlife conservation efforts need to extend beyond Protected Areas into their larger landscapes, and in this context identifying a landscape as “a large tract of land constituted by a mosaic of interacting land uses with people and the impacts of their activities as the cornerstone of its management”. NWAP prioritises the “securing” of corridors used by large mammals other than tigers and elephants across the country, stating that this activity – which may presumably entail identification and conservation action – would be completed three years after landscapes are selected. It mentioned that “ecologically compatible land use” would be ensured in these to-be-demarcated corridors.

“Recognition for corridors has been growing in public discourse about conservation for the past few years,” said Prachi Thatte, a scientist who leads the connectivity team at World Wildlife Fund-India. “Several countries have directed their efforts to improve connectivity conservation by introducing legal provisions and statutory and regulatory frameworks. In India, while corridors are not a legal protected area category, tiger conservation plans (mandated as per section 38V of the Wildlife Protection Act) talk about corridor management, in the same breath as core and buffer areas. Although corridors for several other species don’t have such legal sanction, there has been jurisprudence established by the High Court, Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal with respect to safeguarding corridors.”

Thatte also coordinates the Coalition for Wildlife Corridors. “The coalition works at the science, policy and practice interface. We are generating detailed profiles of multi-species corridors and are collaborating with the forest department to work towards strengthening the planning, design and implementation of management plans for securing corridors.”

A herd of gaurs in a tea plantation in Valparai. Photo by PJeganathan/Wikimedia Commons.

What place do corridors have in India’s conservation history?

Camera trap images from the central Indian landscape show that tigers use human-occupied areas that mosaic with patches of habitats in tiger corridors. “This shows that tigers don’t stay within narrow strips in corridors, but rather use a much larger area. These are generally forest areas that are not protected. It is possible for the local forest department to give a No Objection certificate for development here. These corridors are often occupied by human settlements are heavily dependent on the forests, and conflict is inevitable,” said Kedar Gore, Director at The Corbett Foundation. He also added that invasive plant species like Lantana camara aggravate conflict, growing in thickets that affect visibility in areas where humans and wildlife overlap.

Corridors provide for interactions between communities and wildlife. In Nepal, community forests established in wildlife corridors are relied upon for conservation action, like in Barandhabhar corridor across Chitwan National Park and Parsa Wildlife Reserve. According to a study on community conserved areas in Nepal by Kalpavriksh (Jana et al.), these patches offer opportunity for building healthy nature interactions and to promote traditional ecological knowledge and revive sustainable forest-based livelihoods. In India, corridors have rarely been acknowledged and protected by the Centre so far. 

A Great Indian Bustard in flight over Desert National Park, Rajasthan, India. Photo by T. R. Shankar Raman/Wikimedia Commons.

What are the gaps in conservation action?

“Conservation in India is unfortunately focused largely on forests – grasslands and deserts have generally been tagged as ‘wastelands’,” Gore told Mongabay-India. “Specialist species that inhabit non-forest habitats, like the Great Indian Bustard which walks more than it flies can benefit from identifying critical wildlife corridors in such landscapes. Currently, these habitats are highly fragmented and vulnerable due to land use changes as they are largely ignored when in fact, grasslands sequester as much carbon if not more than forests.”

Gore further emphasises how myriad ecosystems are exempt from the attention enjoyed by terrestrial ecosystems, citing the example of marine wildlife corridors being ignored. “Sea turtles that swim to their natal beaches for breeding are disturbed by fishing trawlers. These species, along with whales, dolphins and others could be better protected with the identification of marine wildlife corridors and keep them away from commercial exploitation.”

Bird Life International has mapped flyways like the Central Asian Flyway used by migratory birds that also behave as corridors. Research shows how several species of birds like larks die colliding into power lines in their path.

Gore also highlights the need to restore corridors that are degraded or fragmented, as they receive little to no protection. The Corbett Foundation has conducted ecological restoration in corridors surrounding Bandhavgarh and other central Indian protected areas since 2018, restoring about 2,000 hectares of forest land, according to their report, which were handed over to the forest department. During this time, they monitored species using the corridors, observing tigers returning to previously barren areas with their cubs.

“Several corridors are mosaics of multiple land uses. For example, in the Satpura-Pench corridor in Madhya Pradesh where WWF works, there are fields of cotton and maize, mines, railways and national and state highways alongside forests. In this corridor, we are working with communities to understand how a shared vision can be created for better corridor management for people and wildlife,” said Thatte.

Marine wildlife corridors, which can include turtle “highways” as the animals migrate to natal beaches, are poorly regulated. Photo by Pawar Pooja/Wikimedia Commons.

Where do corridors stand in law and policy?

Gore emphasises that policy may be influenced better when conservation and local economies are linked to enable community support. “In Protected Areas like Tadoba and Kanha, tourism benefits local economies, offering ample livelihood opportunity for local people. This leads to a higher tolerance towards wildlife encounters or conflict. However, when you move even 10 km. further away from Protected Areas, you find the same communities with higher degrees of intolerance towards tigers and other wildlife.”

“A regional land use policy that can bring together all stakeholders is necessary to create a plan that integrates forest conservation, economic development and the wellbeing of people,” suggested Thatte.

Is technology aiding corridor management?

The use of technology in managing wild spaces is rising steadily, with tools like satellite imagery and GIS modelling helping us observe populations. Such tools not only help understand behaviour patterns and changes, but also play a crucial role in managing conflict situations.

“We use remotely sensed data and data on animal movement to identify corridors,” adds Thatte. “WWF has developed an app and a linked alert system that is used by local community volunteers to record animal presence in farmlands. Encounters occur in high frequency here, endangering local residents. The data is shared with the forest department.”


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Corridor Coalition. (n.d.). Wildlife corridors and India’s national wildlife action plan: Brief history & evolution. Retrieved from

Wildlife Conservation Trust. (2018). Policy framework for CI and EG landscape [PDF]. Retrieved from

Kalpavriksh. (2012). Nepal report [PDF]. Retrieved from

The Gazette of India. (2012, November 8). The government of India Press, New Delhi, India.

National Tiger Conservation Authority. (n.d.). Corridor management. Retrieved from

Indian Council of Agricultural Research. (n.d.). Human animal conflict in agro-pastoral context: Issues & policies [PDF]. Retrieved from


Banner image: An elephant crosses a road in Manas National Park, near the India-Bhutan border. Photo by DhirajDas991/Wikimedia Commons.

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