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India Adopts the “World Elephant Day”

12 August 2016 | World Wildlife Fund-India News Release

New Delhi: On 12 August 2016, India formally adopted the “World Elephant Day” to help conserve and protect elephants in India and improve their welfare. Shri Anil Madhav Dave, Hon’ble Minister of State (I/C) Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India, pledged his support for elephant conservation in India and urged the country to cooperate and support this mission.

The inauguration and awareness generating programme was held at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti Bhawan in New Delhi and was organised by the Project Elephant,  TRAFFIC India, CMS Vatavaran and WWF-India.

The World Elephant Day was launched on 12 August 2012 globally to mobilize attention and support for conservation of Asian and African elephants. The elephant is loved, revered and respected by people across India, yet the future of the species is threatened by the escalation of poaching, habitat loss, human-elephant conflict and mistreatment of elephants in captivity. Working towards better protection for wild elephants, improving enforcement policies to prevent the illegal poaching and trade of ivory, and conserving elephant habitats, are imperative for saving the elephant. For the first time this year, India launched the day in the country.

The Hon’ble Minister pledged his support and said, “On the occasion of World Elephant Day, 2016, I  pledge to protect Indian  elephant, declared as National Heritage Animal, to the best of my ability.  The Indian elephant has been a victim of severe habitat loss, cruelty in private custody and poaching for it’s tusks. It is important that it’s habitat is secured to minimize its conflict with people.   Strict enforcement of laws to stop poaching as well as cooperation with other countries is sought to reduce the demand for ivory in national and international markets.  Elephant conservation in India needs support of all stake holders”.

Nearly 400 school children from all across the Delhi NCR witnessed the pledge ceremony, participated in a conservation march and formed a human chain in support of elephant conservation.  The children held placards with various serious messages about the immediate threats to elephants today. The programme also included a painting, and slogan competition, and a quiz on the theme of elephant conservation in India.

Various films on illegal wildlife trade in elephants, human-wildlife conflict and other threats were screened during the programme. A panel discussion by experts in the field of elephant conservation on the topic “Poaching of elephants and illegal trade in ivory and its products” was also organised.

TRAFFIC India’s latest poster on elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade, part of its long running campaign “ Don’t Buy Trouble” was also released at the event.

Mr Rajeev Kumar Srivastava, IG & Director, Project Elephant, Govt. of India said, “Project Elephant, Division in the Ministry, was  established in the year 1992, to promote conservation and  welfare of elephants in the country.  Since then it has been dealing with four major issues that is destruction, fragmentation and degradation of elephant habitats, poaching of elephants for tusks to meet demand of ivory in national and international markets; human-elephant conflicts and issues relating to captive elephants. Project Elephant Division is working in co-operation with Chief Wildlife Wardens of elephant range States for conservation of elephants and its habitat. However it is very important to raise awareness among general masses, particularly student communities, about the problems faced by pachyderms in India.  The World Elephant Day is an occasion to highlight these issues among the general public and policy makers and this day is being celebrated in the country for the first time.  Participation of Hon’ble Minister, EF&CC in the World Elephant Day 2016 will promote the cause of elephants in India. We are thankful to organisations such as TRAFFIC, CMS Vatavaran, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau for assisting us in organizing the World Elephant Day 2016”.

Dr Shekhar Kumar Niraj, Head of TRAFFIC India said, “International demand is one of the main drivers for elephant ivory in India, with usages varying from Japanese hanko, artifacts, wedding bangles, trophies and medicines. The domestic demand for ivory too has increased with a few communities of Western India using it for bangles and others for decorative and ornamental purposes. Poaching for meat and other products like tail hair also pose threats to populations, especially in North-east India. Ivory is smuggled out to countries like Japan and China via Thailand, Singapore, and Philippines”.

He further added, “The current poaching hotspots are similar to what they were about two decades ago, in the elephant rich habitat of Western Ghats, spanning the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, as well as in Orissa and Assam. There is clear evidence of increase in poaching of elephants in last few years. Though it is early to comment on the ongoing investigations, it is being speculated that some of the ivory entering the market could be from privately owned or ‘captive’ elephants, which is equally illegal. In the case of captive elephants, the ivory is generally scrapped at the tip of the tusk, which takes about a year to regrow, making it a steady source. Lack of effective intelligence could be a stumbling block in stopping elephant poaching in India”.

The Asian Elephant Elephas maximus was once widely distributed throughout the country, including in states like Punjab and Gujarat. Currently, they are found only in 14 states, in four fragmented populations, in South, North, Central and North-east India. The elephant has been accorded the highest possible protection under the Indian wildlife law through its listing under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 of India. This means that hunting/trading this species can attract rigorous imprisonment of up to seven years and a minimum fine of 25000 INR. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has listed the Asian Elephant in Appendix I which prohibits all commercial international trade of the species.

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For any queries, please contact Dr Shekhar Kumar Niraj, Head of TRAFFIC India at or call him at 09868178927 or you can contact Dilpreet B. Chhabra, Senior Manager-Communications, TRAFFIC India at or call her at 09899000472.

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