‘Gaj Yatra’ campaign
- It is a nationwide campaign launched in 2017 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, on the occasion of World Elephant Day, to protect elephants. Gaj Yatra in Meghalaya is part of this initiative.
- It is a “journey celebrating India’s national heritage animal”, which is aimed at securing 100 elephant corridors across India.
- The national campaign is planned to cover 12 elephant range states to provide ‘Right of Passage’ on elephant corridors in India.
- During the period of the campaign, artists and craftsmen will create life-size works on the theme of elephants in places along the route of the roadshow, covering 12 states that have wild elephants, using local art and craft.
- The ‘Gaju’ mascot, which was released by the Ministry in 2012, will helm the campaign across districts frequented by jumbo herds for generating awareness among the people.
- The campaign will be led by the Wildlife Trust of India.
Background for campaign in Meghalaya
- There have been 14,700 cases of man-animal conflicts in Meghalaya state that may have occurred due to space constraint and less food available.
- Also, expansion of human settlements in the state has resulted in fragmented elephant habitats in the Garo Hills, leading to conflicts.
- Considering that, in 2014, villagers in Meghalaya’s Garo Hills set aside a part of their community-owned land to create village reserve forests, giving right of passage to the elephants.Four of these 100 corridors are in Meghalaya,including the Siju-Rewak corridor that some 1,000 elephants use to travel between the Balpakram and Nokrek National Parks in the State.
- In acknowledgement of that gesture, ‘Gaj Yatra’ from Tura, the principal town of Garo Hills was rolled out.
Threats to elephants in India
- Wild elephants in India are facing a variety of problems in India.
- Habitats and corridors of elephants are under tremendous pressure in many States on account of deforestation, encroachment and other biotic factors.
- In some regions, poaching of tuskers has disturbed the sex-ratio in elephant populations to alarming proportions.
- Human-elephant conflict has become a serious issue and the people are turning hostile to elephants and the forest staff.
Glimpse of Initiatives Taken for Elephant Conservation in India
- Efforts for the conservation of the Elephant in India were initiated in 1873 with the promulgation of the Madras Wild Elephant Preservation Act, 1873 but the laws were quite liberal and the resultant was decline in elephant population.
- Considering the decline in elephant population, the elephant was included in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 on 5.10.1977 to provide absolute protection to the elephants, meaning offences under these are prescribed the highest penalties.
- Attempts for the conservation of elephants got a big boost in February 1992 when Government of India launched Project Elephant, as the scheme was intended to preserve habitat and establish elephant corridors, allowing for the traditional migration patterns of established elephant herds.
- Project Elephant has also established the MIKE (Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants) programme of CITES, which has uncovered a significant increase in the poaching of bull tuskers.
- As a result of various conservation measures, elephants now enjoy a comprehensive legal support and their population has gone up.
- There has also been some reduction in the cases of human deaths caused by elephants but the overall status of elephants and their habitat continues to be precarious.
- It is necessary to make systematic and sustained efforts to deal with various problems concerning conservation of elephants.
- The conservation strategies should also strive to nurture and encourage the love and sympathy that a large number of people in India still have for elephants.
IUCN status of Elephants
- African elephants are listed as “vulnerable” and Asian elephants as “endangered” in the IUCN Red List of threatened species.
- As per the available population estimates, there are about 400,000 African elephants and 40,000 Asian elephants.
World Elephant Day
- World Elephant Day is an annual global event celebrated across the world on August 12, dedicated to the preservation and protection of elephants.
- World Elephant Day is celebrated to focus the attention of various stakeholders in supporting various conservation policies to help protect elephants, including improving enforcement policies to prevent illegal poaching and trade in ivory, conserving elephant habitats, providing better treatment for captive elephants and reintroducing captive elephants into sanctuaries.