Source– The post is based on the article “The Tasks That Will Protect India’s Tuskers” published in “The Times of India” on 12th August 2023.
Syllabus: GS3- Environment
Relevance: Conservation of animal biodiversity
News– The article explains the steps taken by Indian government for elephant conservation
What are some facts about elephants in India?
India takes great pride in its substantial elephant population. There exist three distinct species of elephants.
While elephants inhabit a total of 13 countries, it is noteworthy that India alone hosts over 60% of the worldwide wild elephant population.
The elephant population within India is spread across various regions including the southern, northeastern, east-central, and northern parts of the country.
What are steps taken by the Indian government for conservation of elephants?
India has declared elephants as the National Heritage Animal. It grants them protection under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Project Elephant was initiated during 1991-92 as a centrally funded program. It aimed to safeguard and conserve elephants, their natural habitats and corridors.
The elephant population in India has experienced a substantial increase, reaching approximately 30,000 individuals.
Elephant habitats and forests are intersected by roads and railway tracks. It forms obstacles for the movement of elephants and other wildlife. Obstruction caused by railways leads to habitat fragmentation.
The government is consistently collaborating with state governments to mitigate the detrimental effects of existing railway lines on elephants and other wildlife.
Recent developments include the identification of 110 critical sites spanning over 1,800 kilometers along existing railway lines.
The Ministry of Railways has adopted measures such as constructing underpasses, overpasses, enforcing speed limits, establishing level crossings, and building ramps to facilitate elephant movement.
The Ministry of Railways is actively engaged in coordination with the MoEF&CC.
For instance, the Southern Railway has implemented inventive measures like constructing underpasses to reduce elephant fatalities on the Coimbatore-Palakkad route connecting Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Similarly, the Northeast Frontier Railway is in the process of building an elevated corridor in Assam’s Deepor Beel to prevent elephant accidents.
In states like West Bengal and Uttarakhand, pilot projects such as the Intrusion Detection System using optical fiber cables, seismic sensors for animal movement detection, and infrared thermal cameras have been initiated.
Minimising human-animal conflict-
India has established a formalised process known as Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE). It displays proactive engagement in evaluating its national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and tiger reserves.
MEE procedure has been initiated for elephant reserves located in various regions: Uttarakhand’s Shivalik Elephant Reserve, Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiri Elephant Reserve, Odisha’s Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve, and Assam’s Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong Elephant Reserve.
The Ministry has enhanced natural habitats through activities like augmenting water sources and planting fodder trees, as well as regenerating bamboo growth.
To mitigate conflicts, specific areas of significant importance for elephants are designated as Elephant Reserves. Presently, a total of 33 ERs have been established across 14 states where elephants reside.
India has initiated the creation of a genetic database specifically for captive elephants. This comprehensive database encompassing over 326 captive elephants has been developed and documented using the Gaj Soochna App.
This DNA profiling initiative aims to counter the unlawful transfer of elephants between states or individuals.
A comprehensive field manual designed for frontline staff to manage human-elephant conflicts has been introduced in multiple languages.
The Ministry conducts Land Use Land Cover analysis of Elephant Reserves in various states.