Conservation of Elephant in India: Project Elephant

Taxonomically, elephants belong to family Elephantidae. There are ONLY two genera extant from this species viz. Elephas and Loxodonta. Genus Elephas is of the Asian Elephants. There is only one surviving species of this Genus viz. Elephas maximus and elephants of this species are found in natural conditions only in Asia. This species has three subspecies as follows:

  • Indian Elephant: Elephas maximus indicus
  • Sri Lankan Elephant: Elephas maximus maxicus
  • Mainland Asian Elephants: Elephas maximus sumatranus

Asian elephants are the largest living land animals in Asia. The key differences between Asian Elephants and African Elephants are shown in below table. (Key differences marked red)

Conservation of Elephants in India – Project Elephant

In our country there are approximately 30 thousand elephants spread in 16 Elephant states. Maximum number of elephants is in Kerala, followed by Karnataka and Assam. Project Elephant was launched in 1991-92 as a centrally sponsored scheme to assist the States on three key areas

  • Protection of wild elephants, their habitat and corridors
  • Address the issue of man-animal conflict and
  • welfare of domesticated elephants

This Project Elephant is being implemented in 13 states.

Elephant Reserves

A total of 28 elephant reserves covering 58000 km² have been so far notified in India by the state governments.  They cover not only the forest patches of different kinds but also villages, townships, agricultural land, tea plantations and revenue land. Sighbhum Elephant Reserve in Jharkhand was the first reserve to be notified in 2001. Out of 28 ERs, maximum number is in Assam and Odisha with five each.

Elephant Corridors

Elephant corridors are narrow strips of land that allow elephants to move from one habitat patch to another. There are 183 identified elephant corridors in India.  Out of this 138 are State Elephant Corridors, 28 Inter-State Elephant Corridors and 17 are International Elephant Corridors.  Among state corridors, maximum number of them are located in Meghalaya. Among, inter-state corridors, maximum are shared by Jharkhand and Odisha. Maximum International corridors India shares with Bangladesh.

Elephant as National Heritage Animal of India

On the basis of recommendations from the In 2010, Elephants have been declared as national heritage animal by the government with an aim to step up measures for their protection. The status was recommended by a task force on elephant project. The government is still mulling over to amend the Wildlife (Protection) Act to pave way for setting up of National Elephants Conservation Authority (NECA) on the lines of the NTCA that has been constituted for the tiger conservation.