While tiger face extinction, the elephants have to deal with attrition. Forest ministers from eight countries deliberated on Tuesday on how to protect people from rising elephant population from around the world.
Elephant number around the world has remained almost constant at 5.5 lakh but huge destruction of their habitat about 20% in last 20 years has meant increase in human-elephant conflict.
"It is an issue of concern for all of us," environment minister Jairam Ramesh said, while adopting a resolution with seven other ministers to engage local communities in inclusive manner to manage the conflict and work together for elephant conservation. "Unlike the tiger, which faces threat of extinction, the elephant faces threats of attrition because of increase in biotic pressure on their habitat destruction".
India has over 27,000 elephants, an increase from over 21,000 in over six years in 26 elephant reserves spread over an area of 1.10 lakh square kms, more than the area of Congo. Only 65 percent of the corridors are in the protected areas and huge fragmentation has been reported from most parts of the country.
India : 26,000-28,000
Africa : 4.72 lakh.
Elsewhere : 50,000.
26 elephant reserves in India in 1.10 lakh sq km
There are 88 tiger corridors of which 77 % are frequently used
Fragmentation in elephant reserves in north-east, west Bengal, Central India and Tamil Nadu.
Only 65 % of corridors are in protected wildlife areas.
Chilla-Motichur corridor in Uttarakhand has become a new conflict zone with resettlement of Tehri dam evacuees, high road and railway traffic and an ammunition dump. Another is Similipal-Satkosia in Orissa, where encroachment of the corridor by settlers and degradation of the forest cover has resulted in at least five elephant deaths. In Buxa-Ripu at Sankosh, West Bengal and Assam, degradation of forest and biotic pressure from two villages has forced elephants to frequently raid the villages.
Ramesh highlighted that mining projects in Central India were the biggest threat to elephants and called for a striking a balance between mining projects and elephant corridors.
The Union Cabinet had agreed to the National Elephant Conservation Authority (NECA) on the lines of the one for tigers for promoting elephant conservation and protection but asked the ministry to seek Finance Ministry's approval. The authority will examine new projects in elephant zones and frame policies for improving the habitats. The government had last year declared Elephant as the National Heritage Animal of the country.
The minister said that one of the recommendations of the Elephant Task Force last year was for India to take a lead in global elephant conservation. "The delegates present here represent two-third of the world's wild elephant population. Later in 2013 we will bring in all the 50 elephant range countries together to deliberate and actively cooperate for elephant conservation and welfare," he said.
Other than India, ministers of Botswana, Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Thailand participated at the day long conference.