As long-standing icons of its unique cultural psyche, India's threatened elephants are finally getting the protection -- and well-deserved recognition -- they need. In a bid for better conservation, earlier this week the Indian government formally declared the elephant its "national heritage animal", elevating the legendary pachyderm alongside the likes of the majestic tiger, in the hopes of averting a future conservation crisis.India's estimated 26,000 wild elephants -- 3,500 of which are "working animals" or captive animals in temples and zoos -- face serious threats from a combination of poaching and habitat loss. In some areas, the problem of poaching has become so serious that there's only one male for 100 females.
A governent-commissioned panel has been given the task of further studying the parameters involved. In their announcement they state:
"Elephant habitats are under tremendous pressure. Rapid economic expansion and development pressures require far more attention than land use plans from an ecological perspective... New knowledge needs to be brought in regarding the population and habitat assessment."
The Hindu reports:
The government is backing up its declaration with a move to amend the Wildlife Protection Act and set up a National Elephant Conservation Authority, similar to the existing National Tiger Conservation Authority. [..]
Recommended steps include increasing the number of elephant reserves in the country, monitoring elephant populations, curbing, poaching, and man-animal conflicts, and protecting elephant corridors by regulating development activities and relocating local populations.
"Different but same same"
Through these interventions, the Indian government is hoping to avoid a similar conservation catastrophe for its elephants that India's tiger now faces.
Though India's tiger conservation efforts are well-intentioned and well-publicized, nevertheless, it has been an uphill battle to halt the lucrative poaching and illegal trade of tiger organs destined for Chinese medicine.
According to the most recent tiger census and optimistic figures, only about 1,400 of the big cats remain -- in fact, it's only one example of a wider conservation failure in India that's been unfortunately observed. But let's hope that that's one bridge India's elephants won't have to end up crossing.
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