World Elephant Day,celebrated on August 12, is an international annual event, dedicated to the preservation and protection of the world's elephants.
The goal of World Elephant Day is to create awareness on elephant conservation, and to share knowledge and positive solutions for the better protection and management of wild and captive elephants.
Elephant (Elephas maximus) is the largest terrestrial mammal of India. It is a keystone species affecting habitats and ecosystems in significant ways, ensuring ecological balance and resulting ecosystem services for human well-being. Elephants are referred to as ecosystem engineers due to their transformative role in the ecosystems where they create water holes that are also used by other wildlife for their survival during dry season, clear understories to promote new plant growth in forests, and facilitate seed dispersal of several important tree species, due to their highly mobile nature.
The Elephant is recognised as a National Heritage animal and is deeply rooted in our culture. The current population estimates indicate that there are about 50,000 -60000 Asian elephants in the world. India holds by far the largest number of wild Asian Elephants, estimated at about 29,964, this is nearly 60% of the population of the species.
Elephant being wide ranging animal requires large areas. As per Hindu mythology, elephant took birth from celestial waters and thus are closely associated with rains / water because of the belief. The requirement of food and water for elephants are very high and therefore their population can be supported only by forests that are under optimal conditions.
The status of elephant can be the best indicator of the status of the forests. Asian elephants were believed to be widely distributed - from Tigris - Euphrates in West Asia eastward through Persia into the Indian sub-continent, South and Southeast Asia including Sri Lanka, Java, Sumatra, Borneo and up to North China. However currently they are confined to Indian Subcontinent, South East Asia and some Asian Islands: Bangladesh; Bhutan; Cambodia; China; India; Indonesia (Kalimantan, Sumatera); Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Malaysia (Sabah, Peninsular Malaysia); Myanmar; Nepal; Sri Lanka; Thailand; Vietnam.
In India, old literatures indicate that even during the Moghul period, elephants were found all over India including many part of Central India like Marwar, Chanderi, Satwas, Bijagarh and Panna. However current distribution of wild elephant in India is now restricted to four general areas: north-eastern India, central India, north-western India, and southern India.
The Elephant is placed under Schedule I and Part I of the Indian Wild Life Protection Act (1972), which confers it the highest level of protection. Indian Elephant has also been listed in the Appendix I of the Convention of the Migratory species in the Conference of Parties of CMS 13 during February 2020. However, Elephants and humans are now often in conflict in our country because of varied reasons. Asian elephants are listed as “Endangered" on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. This has been done most of the range states, except India, have lost their viable elephant populations due to loss of habitats & poaching etc.
India has the largest number of wild Asian Elephants, estimated at 29,964 according to 2017 census by Project Elephant, i.e. about 60% of the species’ global population. Friction between humans and elephants termed Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) occurs mainly over space and is a major conservation concern across the country for governments, conservationists and people living close to the wild animals.
Loss of natural habitat and fragmentation have been bringing wild elephants closer to human habitations, sparking these conflicts. Over 500 humans are killed in encounters with elephants annually, and crops and property worth millions are also damaged. Many elephants are also killed in retaliation due to conflict.
Source : Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
Last Modified : 9/14/2023
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