India is home to the largest numbers of the Asian Elephant. In 2007 there were more than 27000 wild elephants in India, with 15 states having protected areas. India in 2010 has accorded elephant the status of ‘National Heritage Animal’, and a nationwide campaign called ‘Haathi mere Saathi’ was launched by GOI.
The focus of the elephant can be traced to 1992, when Project Elephant was launched as a centrally sponsored scheme. The objectives for elephant protection and the measures taken were as follows:
1. To protect elephants, their habitat and corridor
o Habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation of elephant habitat are considered to be the primary cause for the decline in elephant numbers. It is estimated that their geographic range has shrunk by 70% since 1960s.
o Elephant corridors in India- 138 state corridors, 28 inter-state corridors and 17 international corridors (with Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar). This indicates the scale of cooperation and coordination required to safeguard elephants.
o E-8 (Elephant Range) countries include India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Botswana, Congo, Kenya and Tanzania- cooperate to safeguard wild elephants (Asian and African).
o Protection from poachers
§ Under the mandate of CITES, a program called MIKE (Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants) was started in South Asia in 2003.
2. To address issues of man-animal conflict
o Human-elephant conﬂict is another major threat to the Asian elephant. Nearly 400 people and 100 elephants lose their lives due to human-elephant conﬂict every year.
o Elephant corridors have to be maintained to avoid such conflict.
o Local support is critical. Agriculturalists on the edge of corridors can:
§ grow some plants that are unpalatable to the elephant- this will deter the elephants from going further and destroying crops.
§ Grow plants that elephants like to eat, so they will be satisfied and not venture further.
o Elephant forays into human habitation can be very dangerous for elephants as well. Much anger against these animals is created because of the damage they cause to crops. This can be addressed by providing crop and livestock insurance, grain-for-grain exchange
o Death of elephants on train tracks
3. Ensure welfare of domesticated elephants
o The numbers of elephants cared for by religious bodies (Hindu temples mainly) is
o Veterinary care