World Elephant day – 2022 was celebrated today at Periyar, Kerala in the presence of Shri Bhupender Yadav, Union Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (EF&CC), Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey, MoS, EF&CC and Shri A. K. Saseendran, Minister of Forests & Wildlife, Kerala among others.
The Union Minister released “Elephant Reserves of India: An Atlas”, “Elephant Reserves of India: Land Use Land Cover Classification”, “Caring for elephants: Managing health and welfare in captivity” and the Special edition of “Trumpet”.
Commemorating 30 years of completion of Project Elephant, a poster on elephant conservation in India was released by all dignitaries.
For the first time in an initiative taken by the Hon’ble Minister, Gaj Gaurav award was conferred for the commendable efforts of local communities, frontline staff and mahouts working at grass root level to conserve elephants in wild and captivity. This year the Malasar Community belonging to the Anamalai of Tamil Nadu and mahouts of Kerala and Assam were awarded the Gaj Gaurav award by the Union Minister, EF&CC.
Prizes were also given to school students for several competitions held on the theme “Living with elephants”. Speaking at the occasion, the Union Minister reiterated that our association with elephants is ancient, valued and revered. He further said that Elephants are also critical to the sustenance of our wildlife and biodiversity and India places a very high premium on the conservation of the jumbos.
Shri Yadav also stated that “Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji a staunch environmentalist and nature lover has made two aspects central to our wildlife conservation strategy. First, wildlife protections and fight against climate change can go hand in hand with development – without either compromising on the other. Second, conservation efforts for our wildlife and biodiversity should be community-driven and all the assistance needed from the state being made available.
The Union Minister informed the audience that India has the largest and the most stable population of Asian elephants. In fact, more than 60% of wild Asian elephants are in India. The population of 29,964 elephants as recorded in the last elephant census conducted in 2017 speaks volumes of the passion for wildlife conservation ingrained in Indian culture. “We have some of the best laws to protect elephants and their habitats. We have the most amazing people who love and worship elephants”, said the Minister.
Union Minister further said that India has 31 Elephant Reserves. In the last 3 years, Dandeli Elephant Reserve has been notified by the state of Karnataka, Singphan Elephant Reserve by Nagaland and Lemru Elephant Reserve in Chhattisgarh. This has brought the total area under Elephant Reserves in India to about 76,508 sqkm across 14 states of the country.
He also shared that India is going to witness the establishment of one more Elephant Reserve, the Agasthiyamalai in Tamil Nadu, adding yet another 1197 sqkm of Protected Area dedicated for protection and conservation of elephants in India. peaking about the human-animal conflict, Shri Yadav said, “The Government of India recognizes that welfare of people is at the heart of elephant conservation in India. With competition for resources, human-elephant conflict is increasing and it is unfortunate that on an average 500 people are killed annually by elephants and about 100 elephants are killed in retaliation by people. Managing human-elephant conflict is a major focus of the Indian government. Reaching out to the families of the victims affected by elephants, Pradhan Mantri Shri Narendra Modi ji’s government has increased the ex-gratia from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.
To find a long-term solution, we are revisiting the elephant corridors of the country and have finished more than 50% of the task involving key stakeholders in this endeavour.
Shri Yadav took the opportunity to inform that regarding the eco sensitive zone judgement passed by the Supreme Court, the Ministry is filing a review petition, specially again to revisit the section 44A and 44E of the judgement as more clarity on the issue was required. He also touched upon the issue of wild boars and stated that the Ministry had already issued a guideline for the human wildlife conflict in February 2021 and powers have been given to the Chief Wildlife Warden of Kerala under section 11 of Wildlife Protection Act for mitigation of this problem.
On the issue of Western Ghats, a committee had been appointed to take a holistic approach to Kasturirangan and Gadgil Committee Report and to consider the representation given by the people.
Union Minister, Shri Yadav also informed that the Wildlife Protection Act has been amended and passed by Lok Sabha recently and there is a provision that mentions that use of elephants for the religious purpose will be continued with certain guidelines of Government of India and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
The Union Minister took the opportunity to reiterate that Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi Ji’s Government is “pro-poor, pro people and pro planet” and that is the reason that the Prime Minister announced a mission of LiFE (Lifestyle For Environment) in Glasgow summit.
In the capacity of Union Minister of Labour & Employment, Shri Bhupender Yadav announced that Kattappana in Idukki district will soon have a 100 bedded ESIC hospital with full facility for the purpose of serving the poor people.
“I am confident that our efforts will pave the way to secure the future of wild elephants and their habitat globally”, concluded the Minister.
MoS, EF&CC, Shri Choubey also addressed the gathering and said that Gajaraj has always been a part of all activities associated with human welfare since ages. He also said that the importance of public participation in conservation of elephants cannot be overstated.
World Elephant Day 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.
The current population estimates indicate that there are about 50,000 – 60000 Asian elephants in the world. More than 60% of the population is held in India. Indian Elephant has also been listed in the Appendix I of the Convention of the Migratory species in the recently concluded Conference of Parties of CMS 13 at Gandhi Nagar, Gujarat in February 2020. World Elephant Day is being celebrated to bring attention of various stakeholders to support various conservation policies to help elephants, including improving enforcement policies to prevent the illegal poaching and trade of ivory, conserving elephant habitats, providing better treatment for captive elephants and reintroducing some captive elephants into sanctuaries. Elephant is the Natural Heritage Animal of India and India also celebrates this day to spread awareness towards conservation of the species.