The TrickyScribe: With a view to raising awareness about the plight of India’s National Heritage Animal, and to building a groundswell of popular support for the securing of elephant corridors, the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MOEFCC) kick-started Gaj Yatra on Saturday marked as World Elephant Day.
The show will move through 12 elephant range states over the next 15 months, with elephant-sized artworks created by local artists and craftsmen as the centrepiece, said Division Head, Species Recovery, WTI, Samir K Sinha. Targeting the children as its prime audience, Gaj Mahotsavs with concerts, parades, street plays and activities will be organised at venues along the way.
The campaign was launched at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, by the MOEFCC Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan, CEO, WTI, Vivek Menon and actor, filmmaker, Dia Mirza. India has as many as 30,000 wild Asian elephants; over 50% of the species’ estimated global population. Yet these natural nomads face an increasingly uncertain future in the country.
Growing demands for resources by the human population have led to the destruction and fragmentation of wild habitats across the country, depleting the area available for elephants to roam and causing human interference in their traditional migratory paths.
Elephant corridors are vital natural habitat linkages that enable elephants and other wildlife to move through the degraded habitats lying between larger protected forests freely, without being disturbed by humans.
With Asian elephants now occupying a meagre 3.5 percent of their historical range, securing these corridors has become conservation imperative, said Dr Sandeep Kumar Tiwari, one of the authors of Right of Passage.
At the World Elephant Day event at the Nehru Memorial Museum, Dr R Sukumar, an eminent elephant expert, WTI Trustee and Professor of Ecology, Indian Institute of Sciences, shared his insights on the All India Synchronised Elephant Census of 2017.
Increasing use of riverbanks damaging Gharial habitat
WTI CEO Menon then made a presentation on the current status of elephant corridors in the country. Dr Harsh Vardhan, who was the Chief Guest, also released the ‘All India Elephant Census, 2017 Report’, as well as ‘Right of Passage’, the definitive publication on India’s 101 identified and mapped elephant corridors, prepared by Wildlife Trust of India and the UK-based charity Elephant Family in consultation with all elephant range state forest departments in the country.
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