Panel set up to study elephant migration (India)


Mayank Aggarwal, Live Mint

Date Published
New Delhi: The environment ministry has set up a panel to study elephant migration, a step aimed at preventing human-elephant conflict, which results in around 400 human deaths every year.
Ministry officials, including additional director general (wildlife), scientist R. Sukumar, Wildlife Institute of India’s scientist emeritus S.S. Bisht, several retired Indian Forest Service officials, secretary general of the WWF, Project Elephant chief and chief wildlife warden of elephant range states, are part of the group, said the environment ministry order for the formation of the committee.
The group has been tasked with studying the pattern of elephant dispersal and migration, review elephant corridors, consider zonation of elephant corridors and its parameters and management principles. Earlier this year, the environment ministry advised state governments to use beehive fences and chilli fences to deter elephants from entering their fields. The panel has been given two years to study the issues and submit a report.
India started Project Elephant in 1992 to protect Asian elephants, their habitat and corridors and address man-elephant conflict. According to official estimates, every year 400 people and 100 elephants lose their lives because of human-elephant conflict besides economic losses for farmers.
The global estimated population of the Asian elephant, an endangered species, is about 41,000-52,000, and of that around 29,300-30,700 elephants are in India alone, according to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In 2010, the central government declared the elephant as an animal of national heritage to scale up measures for its protection.
The special working group has also been asked to suggest techniques for translocation of rogue elephants and examine legal coverage available under various wildlife and environmental laws, for protection and management of existing and potential elephant reserves and elephant corridors in the country and suggest ways to strengthen such legal coverage.
The group will also examine the issue of isolated elephant populations and suggest measures to deal with man-elephant conflict and conservation of elephants.
Project Elephant has a budget of around Rs.200 crore for 2012-17, but a sizeable amount goes towards mitigating the impact of human-elephant conflict. More than 50% of funds under Project Elephant is spent on compensation towards losses caused by elephants in human habitations or crop fields, according to the environment ministry.
The group has been further asked to examine the status and needs of rehabilitation centres across India and issues related to captive elephants.
India currently has 26 elephant reserves covering about 60,000 sq. km. But experts say man-elephant conflict has been increasing mainly due to rapid industrialization and urbanization reducing the animal’s habitat.
“One of the major tasks of the committee is to explore ways of legally strengthening elephant reserves and corridors. At present, there is no legal protection and that is a major hurdle in conservation of elephants,” saidSandeep Kumar Tiwari, deputy director at Wildlife Trust of India, a non-profit organization. “We are optimistic that this committee will find some way of ensuring legal protection to elephant reserves and corridors… That would go a long way in protection of elephants.”