India home to largest population of wild Asian elephants, says Union Minister Bhupender Yadav

Bhubaneswar: With the largest population of wild Asian elephants, India is the mainstay for long-term conservation of the species, said Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav here today.

“Active participation of the local communities is the key in steering elephant conservation to new heights. The Centre is committed to reconcile human welfare and elephant conservation,” added the Yadav while addressing a gathering on the occasion of World Elephant Day here.

The Union Minister highlighted the concerted efforts taken by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change ( MoEFCC), Ministry of Railways, Forest Departments of different states and institutions like the Wildlife Institute of India to address the critical issue of railway-related elephant collisions.

As part of these efforts, about 110 critical stretches across the railway network in the country that pass through elephant habitats have been identified. In these critical stretches, multipronged strategies are planned to minimize railway-related elephant collisions, said the Minister.

“Measures like building underpasses, clearing vegetation along the tracks to increase visibility for the loco pilots to avoid collisions, provisioning ramps, and others will also be taken up. The Ministry of Railways is contemplating to replicate the technology based intrusion detection system along the tracks in Odisha and other states in the country,” he added.

Yadav highlighted the novel initiative taken by the Centre to map genotype of all captive elephants in the country to prevent illegal trafficking of elephants.

The Centre has embarked on carrying out management effectiveness and evaluation of the elephant reserves across the country. Four elephant reserves across the four elephant bearing regions of the country have been identified for piloting the process of management effectiveness evaluation for the elephant reserves. This will be a major step forward in standardizing and propagating best practices among the elephant reserves. Elephant reserve network in the country increased from 76,508 square km to 80,777 square km comprising of 33 elephant reserves in the last two years, informed the Minister.

Yadav also interacted with the Gaj Saathi and other frontline staff who are in the forefront of managing human – elephant conflict.

The Union Minister released a report on the elephant corridors of India prepared by the Project Elephant. The report is an outcome of ground-validation of all the identified elephant corridors in the country in coordination with the Forest departments of various states.

The report involves nearly two years of concerted efforts. The report comprises of details pertaining to 150 elephant corridors across India with corresponding maps. The report is intended to serve as an important reference manual for the elephant corridors of the country.

The report would help the state governments in taking appropriate measures to manage and protect these corridors for ensuring unhindered movement of elephants to avoid negative interactions with local people. Yadav also released the second version of the Atlas of Elephant Reserves of India, which is intended to provide basic information on all the 33 elephant reserves of the country.

The Union Minister conferred Gaj Gaurav awards on the awardees for their exemplary contributions in the field of elephant conservation and management. The Gaj Gaurav awards were conferred on Alefnagar Joint Forest Management Committee in West Bengal, Bishwa Rajan Panigrahi, a former member of protection squad in the Dhenkanal range of Odisha, Pitambara Gouda, watcher, elephant squad of Rayagada Forest Division in Koraput circle of Odisha, Deepak Sharma, Forest Guard, Assistant Gaj Yatra Team, Mahasamund Forest Division, Chhattisgarh, Dr.Mirza Vaseem, veterinary officer, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka.

The occasion was graced by Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State, Government of India and Pradip Kumar Amat, Forests and Environment Minister in Odisha among others were present on the occasion.

August 12 of every year is celebrated as the World Elephant Day across the globe to reaffirm mankind’s collective pledge in conserving one of the most iconic species in the planet.

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