Elephants have been declared as national heritage animal by the government with an aim to step up measures for their protection.
A notification in this regard was issued by the Environment Ministry today as recommended by the task force on elephant project and approved by the standing committee of National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) in its meeting on October 13.
The long-awaited move has cheered the conservationists who feel that jumbos, being closely associated with religion and culture in the country since ages, need to be given the same degree of importance as enjoyed by the tiger.
The government also plans to amend Wildlife (Protection) Act to pave way for setting up of National Elephants Conservation Authority (NECA) on the lines of the NTCA that has been constituted for the tiger conservation.
"We will introduce it (amendment) in the winter session of Parliament," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had said recently underlining the urgency to protect the jumbos in the country before they could go the tiger way whose count stands just around 1,411.
Declaring elephants as national heritage animal and setting up NECA for their protection are part of recommendations of the Elephant Task Force, set up by the government, in its report "securing the Future for Elephants in India.
The report has called for protection of jumbos by creating new reserves, curbing poaching and restricting development in the corridors they use to travel between forested areas."
According to the task force, there are over 25,000 elephants in the country, including 3,500 in captivity in zoos and temples-- particularly in southern and north-eastern parts of the country.
The panel which layed out a comprehensive action agenda for protection of the pachyderms attributed poaching for ivory and increased conflict between people and elephants for their dwindling habitat.