Panel: India must create new reserves, control poaching to protect elephantsBy Nirmala George, AP
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Panel: India must create more elephant reserves
NEW DELHI — India should protect its elephant population by creating new reserves, curbing poaching and restricting development in the corridors they use to travel between forested areas, a panel recommended Tuesday.
Poaching for ivory and increased conflicts between people and elephants due to their dwindling habitat are key problems faced by India’s wild elephant population, estimated at around 26,000.
The Elephant Task Force recommended setting up a national elephant conservation authority, establishing dedicated elephant reserves and protecting 88 corridors that the animals use across the country from mining, irrigation and other industrial projects.
The report’s lead author, Mahesh Rangarajan, said elephants have not received the same attention as tigers and other endangered wildlife, partly because their rate of decline has not been as dramatic. The numbers of wild elephants in India have stayed about the same over the past decade, but their habitat has continued to decline.
“With the elephant it is not a crisis of extinction, but a crisis of attrition,” he said.
Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh said India was declaring the elephant its “National Heritage Animal” to raise awareness of the issue.
Rangarajan said India should make a priority of preventing deadly conflicts between people and elephants in places where shrinking forests force elephants to encroach on villages in search of food. More than half a million people suffer crop damage due to rampaging elephants each year.
India’s national parks also suffer massive encroachment from people who live and forage for food in the forests or graze their cattle inside.
The panel also said India needs to curb poaching using trained forest guards with modern communication equipment.
Only male Asian elephants have tusks, and the poaching of males for their ivory has drastically skewed the ratio between male and female elephants in India.
“In some places, the ratio is down to one male elephant for every hundred females,” Rangarajan said.
Vivek Menon, a wildlife expert with the Wildlife Trust of India, said the panel’s recommendations are a step in the right direction.
“If implemented in full, these are more than enough to save the elephant,” he said.
Tags: Animal Poaching And Smuggling, Animals, Asia, Demographics, Environmental Concerns, Gender Ratio, India, Mammals, New Delhi, South Asia, Wildlife