In Focus: Elephants and their Conservation Efforts

A proposed elephant reserve in Chhattisgarh and its reduced area

In News:

  • The proposed Lemru Elephant Reserve (in the pipeline for 20 years) in Chhattisgarh, has become the subject of controversies.
  • This provides the context for understanding of the Elephants and their Reserves in India.

In Focus: Elephants and their Conservation Efforts:

UPSC Books
  • About the species: Elephant (Elephas maximus) is the largest terrestrial mammal of India.
    • The requirement of food and water for elephants are very high (that is why a wide-ranging animal that requires large areas).
    • The status of elephants can be the best indicator of the status of the forests.
    • The Indian elephant is one of three extant recognised subspecies of the Asian elephant and native to mainland Asia.
      • Since 1986, the Asian elephant has been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

  • Distribution of Elephants in India: About 60% of the Asian elephant population is in India. It occurs in 16 of the 28 states in the country and is showing an increasing trend across its distributional range.
    • Its population in 2012 was estimated to be between 27,785 and 31,368.
    • The current distribution of wild elephants in India is confined to South India; North East including North West Bengal; Central Indian states of Odisha, South West Bengal, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand and North West India in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
    • Their wild population has declined by at least 50% since the 1930s. The Asian elephant is threatened by habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation of forests.
  • Legal protection: It is included in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).
    • To ensure that elephants were given adequate protection, the Government of India declared Elephant as the country’s national heritage animal in 2010, on the advice of the Standing Committee of the National Wildlife Board.
    • The Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme is an international collaboration (established by the CITES in 1997) that measures the levels, trends and causes of elephant mortality.
      • It provides an information base to support international decision-making related to conservation of elephants in Asia and Africa.
      • There are currently 28 sites participating in the MIKE programme in Asia, of which India has 10 sites.

  • Project Elephant:
    • It was launched by the Government of India in the year 1992 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with following objectives:
      • To protect elephants, their habitat & corridors
      • To address issues of man-animal conflict
      • Welfare of captive elephants

    • Through the Project (being mainly implemented in 16 States or UTs), the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, providesfinancial and technical support to major elephant range states in the country.

Elephant Reserves in India: 

  • As part of activities under Project Elephant, the Government of India notified around 32 elephant Reserves in India.

  • The first elephant reserve was the Singhbhum Elephant Reserve of Jharkhand notified in 2011.

 Environment & Ecology