About Elephants: Elephant reserves, Project elephant, MIKE Programme, Conservation efforts, Threats faced

About: Elephants

  • The Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) occurs in 16 states of the country and in regions of central and southern Western Ghats, North-east India, eastern India and northern India and in some parts of southern peninsular India.The Indian elephant is one of three extant recognised subspecies of the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and native to mainland Asia.
  • The Government of India has declared Indian elephant as National Heritage Animal.
  • Its habitat includes- subtropical broadleaf forest, tropical broadleaf moist forest, dry forest and grasslands.


  • As per the 2017 census of elephants, their population in the country is estimated at about 30,000. The Southern Region accounted for more than 14,000 followed by North East with little over 10,000 elephants.
  • The elephant census is conducted every five years in India by the MoEF&CC.
  • India is home to 60% of the global Asian elephant population.

Threats faced by Elephants in India:

  • Deaths of elephants in India have become commonplace. Primary reasons for this are-
  • Shrinkage of their forest ranges and habitat fragmentation- Shrinking forests means lesser availability of food for them. This incentivises the movement of elephants out of forested lands to crop lands. Thus, they indulge in crop raiding, which brings them into conflict with people. Human-elephant conflict is also a major challenge in elephant conservation.
  • Hunting and poaching- It is done for their body parts like ivory and also for captivity.
  • Climate Change- Other pressures are also arising indirectly due to climate change and altering habitats.

Conservation Efforts for Elephants in India:

  • The Asian Elephant is listed in Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act of India, 1972.
  • Asian Elephant (of which Indian Elephant is a subspecies) is also included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES). Asian Elephant was included in Schedule I of CITES based on India’s proposal. This will ensure improved conservation of elephants along its migratory routes.
  • Note: The IUCN status of Indian Elephant is ‘Endangered’ .
  • Project Elephant:
    • Project Elephant (PE) is a Central Government sponsored scheme launched by the MoEF&CC in 1992.
    • Through the scheme, the Central Government provides financial and technical support to major elephant bearing States in the country for protection of elephants, their habitats and corridors.
    • Its objectives are:
      • To protect elephants, their habitat & corridors
      • To address issues of man-animal conflict;Welfare of captive elephants
    • It is mainly being implemented in 16 States/UTs in the country which includes Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.
  • Elephant Reserves:
    • Elephant Reserves are dedicated wildlife areas for elephant conservation in the country.
    • India’s first elephant reserve was created in Jharkhand in 2001 under Project Elephant.
    • Today, there are 32 notified Elephant Reserves in India.
    • However, while Tiger Reserves have legal sanctity, there is not such thing for Elephant Reserveds.
  • Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) Programme:
    • It was launched by the CITES in 2003 in South Asia.
    • It is an international collaboration that measures the levels, trends and causes of elephant mortality, thereby facilitating in conservation of elephants in Asia and Africa.
    • Objectives of MIKE Programme:
      • To measure levels and trends in illegal hunting of elephants.
      • To determine changes in these trends overtime.
      • To determine the factors causing these changes and find solutions for elephant conservation.
    • In India, Project Elephant has been formally implementing MIKE.
  • ‘Gaj Yatra’ is a nationwide awareness campaign launched by MoEF&CC to celebrate elephants and highlight the necessity of securing elephant corridors.