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World Elephant Day

World Elephant Day

World Elephant Day,celebrated on August 12, is an international annual event, dedicated to the preservation and protection of the world's elephants.  

The goal of World Elephant Day is to create awareness on elephant conservation, and to share knowledge and positive solutions for the better protection and management of wild and captive elephants.

Status of elephants

Elephant (Elephas maximus) is the largest terrestrial mammal of India. It is a keystone species affecting habitats and ecosystems in significant ways, ensuring ecological balance and resulting ecosystem services for human well-being. Elephants are referred to as ecosystem engineers due to their transformative role in the ecosystems where they create water holes that are also used by other wildlife for their survival during dry season, clear understories to promote new plant growth in forests, and facilitate seed dispersal of several important tree species, due to their highly mobile nature.

The Elephant is recognised as a National Heritage animal and is deeply rooted in our culture.  The current population estimates indicate that there are about 50,000 -60000 Asian elephants in the world. India holds by far the largest number of wild Asian Elephants, estimated at about 29,964, this is nearly 60% of the population of the species.

Elephant being wide ranging animal requires large areas. As per Hindu mythology, elephant took birth from celestial waters and thus are closely associated with rains / water because of the belief. The requirement of food and water for elephants are very high and therefore their population can be supported only by forests that are under optimal conditions.

The status of elephant can be the best indicator of the status of the forests. Asian elephants were believed to be widely distributed - from Tigris - Euphrates in West Asia eastward through Persia into the Indian sub-continent, South and Southeast Asia including Sri Lanka, Java, Sumatra, Borneo and up to North China. However currently they are confined to Indian Subcontinent, South East Asia and some Asian Islands: Bangladesh; Bhutan; Cambodia; China; India; Indonesia (Kalimantan, Sumatera); Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Malaysia (Sabah, Peninsular Malaysia); Myanmar; Nepal; Sri Lanka; Thailand; Vietnam.

In India, old literatures indicate that even during the Moghul period, elephants were found all over India including many part of Central India like Marwar, Chanderi, Satwas, Bijagarh and Panna. However current distribution of wild elephant in India is now restricted to four general areas: north-eastern India, central India, north-western India, and southern India.

  • In north-eastern India, the elephant range extends from the eastern border of Nepal in northern West Bengal through western Assam along the Himalaya foothills as far as the Mishmi Hills. From here it extends into eastern Arunachal Pradesh, the plains of upper Assam, and the foothills of Nagaland. Further west, it extends to the Garo Hills of Meghalaya through the Khasi Hills, to parts of the lower Brahmaputra plains and Karbi Plateau. Elsewhere in the south in Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, and the Barak valley districts of Assam, isolated herds occur.
  • In central India, highly fragmented elephant populations are found in the States of Orissa, Jharkhand, and the southern part of West Bengal, with some animals wandering into Chhattisgarh.
  • In north-western India, the species occurs in six fragmented populations at the foot of the Himalayas in Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh, ranging from Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in Bahraich Forest Division in the east, to the Yamuna River in the west.
  • There are eight main populations in southern India, each fragmented from the others: northern Karnataka; the crestline of Karnataka—Western Ghats; Bhadra -  Malnad; Brahmagiri - Nilgiris - Eastern Ghats; Nilambur - Silent Valley - Coimbatore; Anamalais - Parambikulam; Periyar - Srivilliputhur; and Agasthyamalais.

The Elephant is placed under Schedule I and Part I of the Indian Wild Life Protection Act (1972), which confers it the highest level of protection. Indian Elephant has also been listed in the Appendix I of the Convention of the Migratory species in the Conference of Parties of CMS 13 during February 2020. However, Elephants and humans are now often in conflict in our country because of varied reasons. Asian elephants are listed as “Endangered" on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. This has been done most of the range states, except India, have lost their viable elephant populations due to loss of habitats & poaching etc. 

Human - elephant conflict

India has the largest number of wild Asian Elephants, estimated at 29,964 according to 2017 census by Project Elephant, i.e. about 60% of the species’ global population. Friction between humans and elephants termed Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) occurs mainly over space and is a major conservation concern across the country for governments, conservationists and people living close to the wild animals.

Loss of natural habitat and fragmentation have been bringing wild elephants closer to human habitations, sparking these conflicts. Over 500 humans are killed in encounters with elephants annually, and crops and property worth millions are also damaged. Many elephants are also killed in retaliation due to conflict.

Best Practices of Human Elephant Conflict Management in India

Measures taken for protection of Elephants

  1. Project Elephant : Project Elephant was launched in 1991-92 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate change
  2. Estimation of wild elephant population in the year 2007, 2012 and 2017.
  3. Elephant Reserves: Elephant Reserve is a management entity notified by the State Governments as per recommendation of Govt. of India. It includes Protected Areas, forest areas, corridors and private/reserve lands. As of November 2022, 33 Elephant Reserves (ERs) extending over about 80,777 sq km have been formally notified by various State Governments.
  4. Elephant Corridors of India : Is prepared by the Project Elephant. The report is an outcome of ground-validation of all the indentified elephant corridors in India in coordination with the State Forest Departments of the elephant range states. The report involves nearly two years of concerted efforts. The report comprises of details pertaining to 150 elephant corridors across India with corresponding maps. The report is intended to serve as an important reference manual for the elephant corridors of India.  The report would help the State Governments in taking appropriate measures to manage and protect these corridors for ensuring unhindered movement of elephants to avoid negative interactions with local people.
  5. Gaj Gaurav awards - Awards given to recognise exemplary contributions in the field of elephant conservation and management. The prestigious Gaj Gaurav awards were conferred to (1) Alefnagar Joint Forest Management Committee, West Bengal (2) (Late) Shri. Bishwarrajan Panigrahi, (ex) protection squad in the Dhenkanal range of Odisha for his exemplary services (3) Shri. Pitambara Gouda, watcher, elephant squad of Rayagada Forest Division in Koraput circle of Odisha, (4) Shri. Deepak Sharma, Forest Guard, Assistant Gaj Yatra Team, Mahasamund Forest Division, Chhattisgarh, and (5) Dr.Mirza Vaseem, veterinary officer, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka.
  6. Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) Programme - Mandated by COP resolution of CITES , MIKE program started in South Asia in the year 2003 with following purpose — To provide information needed for elephant range States to make appropriate management and enforcement decisions, and to build institutional capacity within the range States for the long-term management of their elephant populations.
    Mike Sites in India
    1. Chirang Ripu (Assam )
    2. Dhang Patki( Assam )
    3. Eastern Dooars( WB )
    4. Deomali( Arun Pradesh )
    5. Garo Hills ( Meghalaya )
    6. Mayurbhanj ( Odisha )
    7. Mysore ( Karnataka )
    8. Nilgiri( T. N)
    9. Shivalik (Uttarakhand )
    10. Wayanad ( Kerala)

Source : Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change 

Last Modified : 9/14/2023

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