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Odisha Is An Elephant Graveyard Says Indian Canadian Biologist

Odisha Is An Elephant Graveyard Says Indian Canadian Biologist

NEW DELHI, (IANS) – The world observed Elephant Day on August 12 to raise awareness about the preservation and protection of the largest land mammals. A top Indian Canadian conservationist says India has miles to go when it comes to saving their gentle giants.

With almost 1,200 elephants killed in the last 10 years across India — 245 of them in the past three years in Odisha alone — the gentle giants are at grave risk, with just 27,000 left in the country at present.

And with Kerala losing 58 percent of its wild elephants in the last six years, according to a 2023 forest department data, there “seems no sense of urgency to implement solutions and deal with a crisis unfolding in India,” says multiple award-winning wildlife filmmaker and elephant conservationist, Sangita Iyer.

“India still has a long way to go when it comes to elephant conservation and appreciating the interdependencies of every creature in this magnificent web of life,” Iyer, founder of Voice for Asian Elephants Society (VFAES), said.

According to Iyer, India has some of the best wildlife protection laws, but they are not being enforced. “The recently amended Wildlife Protection Act 1972 (Section 43) allows the transfer of elephants between states, creating loopholes that will be exploited, potentially emboldening illegal elephant captures. Additionally, even the existing laws are not being enforced,” she says.

Citing the tragic case of a pregnant elephant in West Bengal, who died last month after officers allegedly mistook it for a bull elephant, Iyer rues that many untrained forest officers are given the task of protecting elephants, wildlife, and the natural treasures of India, which is causing a lot of harm.

Along with British MP Henry Smith, Iyer had addressed the UK Parliament in June, imploring Indian authorities to act urgently in the wake of the alarming number of elephant deaths caused by electrocution, poaching, and habitat loss, among other growing threats.

Calling Odisha, the “largest elephant graveyard”, Iyer told Parliament that “electrocution and train track deaths of elephants are happening at an alarming and appalling rate in Odisha where mining and poaching are out of control”.

Rampant mining aside, roadways and railways cutting through core forests, illegal human encroachment, and unsustainable extraction of forest resources have resulted in elephants losing 80 percent of their habitats.

This year, India witnessed a surge in the number of tigers, which were endangered and on the verge of extinction due to massive poaching, with mere 1,411 in 2006 to 3,682 in 2022.

Calling tiger conservation in India a massive success story, Iyer says that the Project Tiger authorities did a “phenomenal job” using the funds allocated by the Union government, and in comparison, Project Elephant “seems to have failed miserably”.

“Nobody knows what this unit has achieved over the years, except produce the Gaja report, and conduct elephant census every five years, although even that has been stalled due to Covid. It has now been seven years since the last elephant census was conducted in 2017,” Iyer said.

The need for an elephant census is more pressing to understand the elephant gender ratio. According to Iyer, as of now, only 4.4 percent of the total elephant population in India are males, which is creating a serious gender disparity in the wild.

“At this rate, elephants will become extinct in less than 10 years,” she says.

Simple measures to save precious lives.

Haunted by the pain and suffering of Asian elephants, Iyer and VFAES have launched more than a dozen projects in India since 2018 in collaboration with grassroots organizations and state governments.

Some of these include planting saplings and creating waterholes in Odisha forests by employing tribal people; installing road signages and technology to warn truck drivers in elephant crossing zones and barricading more than 100 open wells in Odisha.

Apart from providing elephant-friendly fencing, Iyer and her organization have implemented a device called Ele Sense, which detects the elephant presence around 500 meters.

According to VFAES, between January 1 and July 12, 2023, Ele Sense has potentially saved 161 elephants in the Doors region of West Bengal alone. The organization is now in discussions with the authorities in Odisha to implement the technology.

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  • There is Indian or Canadian.
    Indian Canadian is American Born Confused Desi – ABCD.

    And India West is even more confused.

    August 17, 2023
  • Very Simple! BJD, the ruling party sides with BJP in the parliament. They have also done so much work to bring back the confused Adivaasi folks from the tyrannies of conversion. Now, let us take on Odisha government and show them how the toolkit works!

    August 17, 2023
  • This is one more example of how essential it is on the part of the people to be not only law abiding but also conduct themselves in constructive ways based on common sense. Other examples are tax abiding, traffic, sanitation and hygiene, etc. Animals are animal citizens. From Buddha to Mhahatma Gandhi and later, various sages, saints and seers have emphasised the respecting of animal rights. The NGOs who campaign for human rights need to broaden their vision andmission to include animal rights. Some workers for animal rights feel that by respecting animal rights, the human rights will naturally fall in place, and further still there will be no war. See what has happened to tigers in India! Look at the stray dogs in India.

    August 18, 2023

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