Project Elephant- A Conservation Strategy

Project Elephant- Conservation strategy for Elephant

  • Project elephant is a centrally sponsored scheme launched in February 1992. The scheme helps and assists in the management and protection of elephants to the States having free-ranging populations of wild elephants, in order to ensure the survival of elephant population in the wild and protection of elephant habitat and elephant corridor.
  • Project elephant is mainly implemented in 16 States / UTs, which includes Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Kerala, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Uttaranchal West Bengal Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.
  • The union government provides financial and technical assistance to the states to achieve the goals of this project. Help is also provided for the purpose of the census, training of field officials and to ensure the mitigation and prevention of human-elephant conflict.
  • There are around 32 elephant Reserves in India notified by the state governments. The first elephant reserve was the Singhbhum elephant Reserve of Jharkhand.

Objectives of project elephant

  • Protection of elephants, their habitats and elephant corridors.
  • Mitigation and prevention of man-elephant conflict.
  • To ensure the Welfare of domesticated elephants.

The aim of this project

  • To ensure the protection of elephants from hunters and poachers, and prevent illegal trade of ivory. It also includes the strategy to prevent unnatural causes of death of elephants in India.
  • To develop and promote scientific and planned management strategies for the conservation of elephants.
  • To mitigate and prevent the increasing conflict between humans and elephants in elephant habitats. It also aims to reduce and remove the pressure of human and domestic livestock grazing and other activities in important elephant habitat.
  • To ensure ecological restoration of the natural elephant habitats and their migratory routes.
  • To promote scientific research on issues related to conservation of elephants and promotion of public awareness and education on these issues.
  • To ensure the proper health care and breeding of domesticated elephants. To facilitate veterinary care and Eco-development for the elephants.

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Elephant corridors in India

  • Elephant corridor is the narrow strips of forested lands which connects larger elephant habitats with significant elephant populations. It acts as a conduit for the movement of elephants between the elephant habitat. It is necessary to enhance species survival and birth rate of the elephant population in the wild.
  • There are around 88 elephant corridors in India out of which 20 are in South India, 12 in North Western India, 14 in North West Bengal, 20 in Central India and 22 in North Eastern India. About 77.3% of these corridors are regularly used by the elephants. One-third of these corridors are of high ecological priority and other two third are of medium priority.
  • These elephant habitats are facing threats due to their fragmentation. This problem is severe in areas of Northern West Bengal followed by North Western India, North Eastern India and Central India. This fragmentation was least in South India.
  • 65% of elephant corridor in South India fall under protected areas or reserved forests. But only 10% of elephant corridors in Central area are completely under forest area, while 90% of them are jointly under forest, agriculture and settlements. Overall, only 24% of elephant corridors in India are under complete forest cover.

Major threats to elephant corridors

  • Problems such as elephant habitat loss which is leading to fragmentation and destruction primarily due to developmental activities such as the construction of roads, railways, buildings, holiday resorts and electric fencing etc.
  • Mining activities such as coal mining and iron ore mining have been described as single biggest threats to elephant corridor in Central India. States like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa are mineral rich but also have the highest number of elephant corridors which is leading to elephant man conflict.
  • As elephants require extensive grazing ground for food, lack of such grazing grounds can force elephants to search for food elsewhere. Most of the elephant reserves unable to accommodate all the elephants, which results in man-elephant conflict due to the destruction of crops by elephants.

Mitigation strategies

  • Fusion of elephant corridors with the nearby protected areas and reserved forest wherever possible. In other areas, to provide protection to the elephant corridors, there is a need for the declaration of ecologically sensitive areas or conservation reserves.
  • Securing the elephant corridors would require awareness generation and sensitizing the local population to promote voluntary relocation outside the conflict zones. This would prevent the problem of further fragmentation of continuous forest habitats from encroachment by human beings. It would also provide refuge for other wild animals such as tiger, Sambar, crocodile, bird species etc.
  • During the process of securing the elephant corridor, there is a need to monitor the animal movements along with habitat restoration as per the requirements.

Elephant as the national heritage animal of India

  • The elephant has been declared as the national heritage animal by the government of India in 2010 after the recommendations of the standing committee on national board for wildlife. This was to ensure sufficient protection for elephants before it's numbered fall to panic levels as it had happened in case of tigers.
  • A proposed National elephant conservation authority (NECA) on the lines with NTCA has been proposed to be constituted by amending the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.

Monitoring of illegal killing of elephants (MIKE) programme

  • MIKE program was started in South Asia and in 2003 after the conference of parties a resolution of CITES. It aims to provide information which is required by the elephant range countries to make proper management and enforcement decisions and to promote institutional capacity in those States for long-term protection and management of their elephant populations.

Main objectives of MIKE programme

  1. To measure the levels and trends in the illegal poaching of elephants. To ensure changes in the trends for protection of elephant population.
  2. To determine the factors which are responsible for such changes, and to assess in particular about the impact of decisions of the conference of parties to CITES responsible for such changes.
  3. Under this programme, data are collected on a monthly basis from all the sites in specified MIKE patrol form and it is submitted to the sub-regional support office for South Asia programme located in Delhi.

Hathi Mere Sathi

  • Ministry of environment and forests (MOEF) in partnership with Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) has launched a campaign called Hathi Mere Sathi. The campaign aims to improve the conservation, protection and welfare of elephants in India. It was launched at Elephant- 8 ministerial meeting which was held in Delhi on 24th may 2011.
  • The countries who are the part of the Elephant-8 ministerial meeting are Botswana, Kenya, Srilanka, Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Tanzania, Thailand and India.
  • The Hathi Mere Sathi campaign aims at increasing public awareness and developing friendship and companionship between local population and elephants.

The campaign mascot Gaju

  • The campaign Mascot Gaju focuses on various groups which include local people near elephant habitats, youth, policymakers and others. The scheme envisions to set up elephant centres all over the country in the elephant landscapes. It aims to spread awareness about the plight of elephants and promote people's participation in addressing these issues.
  • The campaign plans to ensure capacity building of law enforcement agencies at the ground level to enhance protection of elephants, and to advocate for the policies in favour of elephants.
  • The elephant task force (ETF) which was constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forest has recommended the campaign to Take Gajah (the elephant) to the Prajah (the people) in order to increase public awareness and their participation in the conservation and welfare of elephants.
  • India has around 25000 - 29000 elephants in the wild. However, the tuskers (male) in India are as threatened as the Tigers as there are only around 1200 tusker elephants left in India.
  • The Asian elephants are threatened by the habitat degradation, man-elephant conflict and poaching for the Ivory. This problem is more intense in India which has around 50% of the total population of world's Asian elephants.

Elephant - 8 ministerial meeting

  • The Elephant- 8 ministerial meeting has the representation of all three species of elephants i.e. Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), African Bush elephant (Loxodonta africana), African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis). The ministerial meeting has the participation of policymakers, wildlife conservationists, scientists, historians, experts from art and culture from the participating countries.
  • The discussions in the ministerial meeting cover several issues under three basics themes which include science and conservation, management and conservation, and the cultural and ethical perspectives of conservation.
  • The E-8 countries have agreed to take necessary steps for the protection and conservation of elephants. They have also decided to actively pursue a common agenda in order to ensure the long-term welfare, protection and survival of all the species of elephants in all the elephant range countries.
  • The ministerial meeting has called all the E-8 countries for cooperation under the umbrella of elephant 50:50 forum. Elephant 50:50 forum is the shared vision of 50 countries to promote conservation, protection, management and welfare of elephants and their habitats in the next 50 years.

Project elephant along the India Bangladesh border in Assam

  • The India Bangladesh border in Assam is being completely fenced to prevent an illegal influx of migrants. However, this has created a problem for the movement of elephants who frequently travel through the borders of India and Bangladesh. Therefore in order to allow free movement of elephants, jumbo-sized gates would be constructed along the borders which have been the part of elephant corridors for several hundred years.
  • These gates would be manned by the security forces guarding the borders. The forest department personnel would keep track of the movement of elephants and they would inform the border guards to open the gates for the herds to cross the border safely. There is a proposal of surveillance mechanism to keep track of the suspicious movements through these corridors.
  • The elephants need a large Habitat for their survival and therefore they have been migrating in the neighbouring forests of Bangladesh from Assam and Meghalaya. Any obstruction on the seasonal migration routes of elephants has often lead to man-animal conflict leading to loss of lives and damages to crops and property.
  • There are around 5000 elephants in Assam and another 1800 in Meghalaya. There are 6 elephant corridors along the India Bangladesh border in these northeastern states. The efforts of Wildlife Trust of India to restore the traditional migratory routes of elephants have been blocked by construction of boundary fences. Construction of Jumbo gates is seen as a solution to this problem. However, these gates should be long enough with sufficient cover for elephants to cross through them.
  • Elephants use entire forest along the borders for their movement, but once they know about a safe route to pass through, then they are smart enough to use these gates as their corridors.

Elephant reserve in India

S.No Zone State Elephant Reserve
1 North-Western Landscape Uttarakhand Shivalik Elephant Reserve
2 North-Western Landscape Uttar Pradesh Uttar Pradesh Elephant Reserve
3 East-Central Landscape West Bengal Mayurjharna Elephant Reserve
4 East-Central Landscape Jharkhand Singhbhum Elephant Reserve
5 East-Central Landscape Orissa Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve
6 East-Central Landscape Orissa Mahanadi Elephant Reserve
7 East-Central Landscape Orissa Sambalpur Elephant Reserve
8 East-Central Landscape Orissa Baitami Elephant Reserve
9 East-Central Landscape Orissa South Orissa Elephant Reserve
10 East-Central Landscape Chhattisgarh Lemru Elephant Reserve
11 East-Central Landscape Chhattisgarh Badalkhol Tamor Pingla Elephant Reserve
12 Kameng- Sonitpur Landscape Arunachal Pradesh Kameng Elephant Reserve
13 Kameng- Sonitpur Landscape Assam Sonitpur Elephant Reserve
14 Eastern-South Bank Landscape Assam Dihing-Patkai Elephant Reserve
15 Eastern-South Bank Landscape Arunachal Pradesh South Arunachal Elephant Reserve
16 Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong-Intanki Landscape Assam Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong Elephant Reserve
17 Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong-Intanki Landscape Assam Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong Elephant Reserve
18 Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong-Intanki Landscape Nagaland Intanki Elephant Reserve
19 North Bengal- Greater Manas Landscape Assam Chirang-Ripu Elephant Reserve
20 North Bengal- Greater Manas Landscape West Bengal Eastern Dooars Elephant Reserve
21 Meghalaya Landscape Meghalaya Garo Hills Elephant Reserve
22 Meghalaya Landscape Meghalaya Khasi-hills Elephant Reserve
23 Brahmagiri- Nilgiri-Eastern Ghats Landscape Karnataka Mysore Elephant Reserve
24 Brahmagiri- Nilgiri-Eastern Ghats Landscape Kerala Wayanad Elephant Reserve
25 Brahmagiri- Nilgiri-Eastern Ghats Landscape Tamil Nadu Nilgiri Elephant Reserve
26 Brahmagiri- Nilgiri-Eastern Ghats Landscape Andhra Rayala Elephant Reserve
27 Brahmagiri- Nilgiri-Eastern Ghats Landscape Kerala Nilambur Elephant Reserve
28 Brahmagiri- Nilgiri-Eastern Ghats Landscape Tamil Nadu Coimbatore Elephant Reserve
29 Anamalai- Nelliampathy- High Range Landscape Tamil Nadu Anamalai Elephant Reserve
30 Anamalai- Nelliampathy- High Range Landscape Kerala Anamudi Elephant Reserve
31 Periyar- Agasthyamalai Landscape Kerala Periyar Elephant Reserve
32 Periyar- Agasthyamalai Landscape Srivilliputhur Elephant Reserve

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