Elephants’ Right of Way
TOPIC: General Studies III
- Animal Conservation; Man-Animal Conflict
In News: Seven elephants died after coming in contact with a sagging electric wire in Odisha’s Dhen-kanal on 26 October. This is the highest casualty of elephants in a single incident in Odisha.
Why is this national issue?
Environment ministry data shows that 655 elephant deaths took place in India from 2009 to 2017. This translates into an average of about 80 elephant deaths per year, seven every month and one every four days.
Due to Electrocution –
- Every year, about 50 elephants have died on average due to electrocution.
- A total of 461 elephant deaths due to electrocution occurred in the eight years between 2009 and November 2017.
- The States with the highest elephant population are Karnataka (6,049), followed by Assam (5,719) and Kerala (3,054).
Main Causes behind current elephant deaths?
- Train accidents
Weak regulation of ecotourism is severely impacting important habitats, and affecting animals that have large home ranges, like elephants. Fragmentation of forests makes it all the more important to preserve migratory corridors. The movement of elephants is essential to ensure that their populations are genetically viable, and help regenerate forests on which other species, including tigers, depend.
Ending human interference in the pathways of elephants is a conservation imperative, more so because the animals are then not forced to seek alternative routes that bring them into conflict with people. Forests that have turned into farms and unbridled tourism are blocking their paths, resulting in growing incidents of elephant-human conflict.
What does it really mean for India?
The horrifying deaths of the seven elephants have once again brought home the fact that India can no longer neglect its wildlife corridors.
Elephant corridors are strips of land connecting two large habitats, which are supposed to provide a safe corridor for elephants to migrate from one landscape to another. In India, there are 101 elephant corridors.
Has India done anything to safeguard its elephants?
- Project Elephant – Project Elephant (PE) was launched by the Government of India in the year 1992 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with following objectives :
- To protect elephants, their habitat and corridors
- To address issues of man-animal conflict
- Welfare of captive elephants
- Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) Programme – Mandated by COP resolution of CITES, MIKE program started in South Asia in the year 2003 with following purpose –
- To provide information needed for elephant range States to make appropriate management and enforcement decisions
- To build institutional capacity within the range States for the long-term management of their elephant populations
- The main objectives of the MIKE are
- To measure levels and trends in the illegal hunting of elephants;
- To determine changes in these trends over time; and
- To determine the factors causing or associated with such changes, and
- To try and assess in particular to what extent observed trends are a result of any decisions taken by the Conference of the Parties to CITES
- The main objectives of the MIKE are
- Elephant Information Network (EIN)
- Has enabled human-elephant coexistence in southern India
- Acts as an early warning mechanism to alert people when elephants are nearby, minimizing negative human-elephant interactions, and increasing people’s tolerance towards elephants.
- By Mr. Ananda Kumar
India needs to take more concrete steps to ensure the safety of her elephants –
- Better surveillance of the elephant corridors
- Greater coordination between the Forest Department and different agencies, including the Power Department, as well as continuous monitoring of electrical wires passing through areas of elephant movement
- Radio tagging of elephants can help identify danger spots and also avoid man-animal conflict
- Ban on illegal electrical fencing with proper guidelines for maintaining the height of high tension electrical wires – cabling of power lines should be mandatory
- A proper zone-wise management plan for different elephant landscapes — where to allow elephants and where to restrict their movement
- Effort should be to expand elephant corridors, using the successful models within the country, including acquisition of lands using private funds and their transfer to the government.
- Among the major factors affecting conservation, two need quick remedies: about 40% of elephant reserves are vulnerable, as they are not within protected parks and sanctuaries; and the corridors have no specific legal protection. Illegal structures in these pathways should be removed without delay.
Do you know?
- India prohibits import and export of ivory.
- The population estimation of Asian elephants in 2017 census is lower than from the last census estimate in 2012.
- Karnataka has the highest number of elephants (6,049), followed by Assam (5,719) and Kerala (3,054)
- Karnataka, which has the largest elephant population in the country, captures and confines elephants in conflict with humans
- Called Kumki elephants, they are tamed and trained in forest camps, and are now in demand in other States, for patrolling duties in forest reserves
- Their ‘export’ also helps Karnataka, reducing the burden on its camps.
- How: The state has a tradition of training wild pachyderms: folklore has it that the Jenu Kuruba tribes excelled at it, supplying elephants to the Chola and Pallava kings. Tipu Sultan institutionalised the practice three centuries ago.
- They have been exported to the following parks –
- Dudhwa National Park, Uttar Pradesh
- Jharkhand’s Palamu Tiger Reserve
- Uttarakhand: Corbett Tiger Reserve + Rajaji Tiger Reserve + Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary