World Elephant Day
- There are two species of elephants, African and Asian, and while they are similar in physiology, they are too biologically different to interbreed.
- According to IUCN, the Asian elephant is classified as endangered with less than 40,000 remaining worldwide.
- The African elephant (Forest and Savannah) is a vulnerable species with less than 400,000 remaining worldwide.
- India has the largest number of wild Asian Elephants, estimated at 29,964 according to the 2017 census by Project Elephant which is almost 60% of the global Asian Elephant population.
- Project Elephant was launched by the Government of India in the year 1991-92 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme to provide financial and technical support to major elephant bearing States in the country for protection of elephants, their habitats and corridors.
- A similar initiative is the Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme that tracks trends in information related to the illegal killing of elephants from across Africa and Asia, to monitor effectiveness of field conservation efforts.
- The MIKE Programme was established by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1997.
- Among the states, the highest population was recorded in Karnataka (6,049), followed by Assam and Kerala.
- Over 500 people and 100 elephants die every year due to conflict with each other, which include poaching for ivory or meat, poisoning, electrocution and collision with trains, while property worth millions are damaged.
- Loss of natural habitat and fragmentation have been bringing wild elephants closer to human habitations, sparking human-elephant conflicts.
Why in the news?
- World Elephant Day was celebrated on August 12 to raise awareness on the preservation and protection of the world’s elephants.
- There are about 30 elephant reserves across the country covering about 65,000 sq km but the reserves and corridors have poor legal protection, which means that forest land in such areas can easily be diverted for any non-forest purpose like infrastructure development projects etc.
- Population management is the key issue because only 22% of the elephant habitat is under protected area. Majority of elephant corridors are under non-protected areas due to which elephants migrate to the other areas because it requires fodder around 300kg.
- In Eastern India, due to various problems like mining, increasing cultivation, decline in bamboo forest cover, the human-elephant issue has reached its peak.
- The pre-existing corridors need to be enlarged. The translocation of animals from a densely populated region to a less populated region can help in minimising the conflict to some extent.
- Wildlife management should be prioritized along with the economic development and decisions regarding both should go hand in hand along with various scientific decisions.
- Mitigation measures should be implemented by policy makers as well as via community participation.
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