World Elephant Day- Talking Conflicts (12 August 2020)
World Elephant Day- Talking Conflicts (12 August 2020)
Why in News:
More than 500 people and 100 elephants die every year due to conflict with each other, officials of the environment ministry said on Monday. Releasing the figures at an event ahead of World Elephant Day on August 12, the officials said interactions between humans and elephants have led to the death of both.
As per the last census conducted in 2017, India is home to 30,000 elephants. Addressing the event, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said elephant conservation is vital as it balances the ecosystem. Elephants have to be kept in forests for which fodder and water augmentation programme has been initiated, the minister said, adding that by next year results will start showing.
World Elephant Day is an international annual event on August 12, dedicated to the preservation and protection of the world's elephants.
The goal of International Elephant Day is to create awareness of the urgent plight of African and Asian elephants, and to share knowledge and positive solutions for the better care and management of captive and wild elephants.
Elephants are endangered and protected under the International Union for Conservation of Nature and also the UN Convention for Migratory Species. They are also officially recognized as a National Heritage Animal in India with the highest protection under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Sixty percent of Asia’s elephants (and 50 percent of the world’s) live in India, across 18 states. At last count, there were close to 27,000 wild elephants — including those found in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands — and around 2,500 in captivity. The Southern belt of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, with their interconnected forests, provides a wider range for elephants to roam, and is perhaps why they’re found here in the largest numbers.
Between 1987 and 2018, 249 elephants were killed on railway lines passing through elephant habitats. Forty-nine from among these were killed in just three years — 2015 to 2018. Nearly 50 elephants also die every year due to electrocution.
Elephant population in the country is estimated at 29,964 as per the census conducted in 2017.
Summary of the Debate
- New habitations are coming to the forest area.
- Habitat loss and fragmentation.
- Blockage of the corridor.
- A lot of corridor falls in non protected areas.
- The problem of the elephants is more food based and migration roads based.
- Encroachment of human beings in wildlife habitats for residential purposes and the expansion of cities.
- Some of the road networks even pass through protected areas leading to accidents due to expanding road networks and increase in vehicular traffic.
- Tourism without proper guidelines disturbs animal habitats.
- Man animal conflicts are also caused by the unscientific structures and practices of forest management in the country.
- There are so many cases of land use transformations such as change from protected forest patches to agricultural and horticultural lands and monoculture plantations, which are further destroying the habitats of wildlife.
Project Elephant was launched in 1992 by the Government of India Ministry of Environment and Forests to provide financial and technical support to wildlife management efforts by states for their free-ranging populations of wild Asian Elephants. The project aims to ensure the long-term survival to the populations of elephants in their natural habitats by protecting the elephants, their habitats and migration corridors. Other goals of Project Elephant are supporting the research of the ecology and management of elephants, creating awareness of conservation among local people, providing improved veterinary care for captive elephants.
Striking a balance between Infrastructure development, Wildlife and Ecology:
- One of the things which is to be remembered is as when economic development happens in a region the people depending on the forest living in the vicinity of the forest their number goes down, as a result the chances of conflict reduces, for instance in the case of West Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand, these are one of the least developed and highly populated districts where the economic opportunity of the people residing in the vicinity of the forest is very low.
- Urbanisation would provide a better economic opportunity; people would certainly move away from the forest areas and will go to urban areas for employment.
- Elevated roads, elevated rail corridors would provide a safe passage for the animals without fragmenting the habitat further, they can meet the requirement of physical infrastructure as well as keep the movement of wild animals without compromising it.
- The other options which have been practised and worked to some extent in the case of North-East Frontier Railway have been using the amplified version of honey bees sound to ward off elephants from tracks. They have been using it effectively since 2003 and it has reduced the death of elephants.
- Real time tracking of the elephants would help in forewarning the people.
- The development and the ecological integrity can go hand in hand provided all the decisions are driven by primarily the science and bit of pragmatism and science should take lead in decision making rather than the emotions.
- Science primarily dealing with the population management of the elephants and carrying capacity that how much a protective area covered in the country and forest can sustain the population these animals should be the guiding principles without too much manipulation of the natural way of limiting the population like the forage and food and pragmatism with regard to expecting the farmers to switch over the crops which are not like the by the elephants is not pragmatic.
- The wildlife management cannot be seen in isolation that has to be seen in the entirety of the development of the communities and people living in the vicinity of those protected areas as well as the wildlife per se.
- It is important to prevent animals from moving to the villages.
Important points made by the Guests
Ashok Pai, Former Chief Conservator of Forests, Uttarakhand
Achintya Singh, Wildlife Photographer
Noyal Thomas, IG, Project Elephant