Reinventing relationship with elephants

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Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit

World Elephant Day is observed to bring the world together to help elephants. Elephants are among the most intelligent of the creatures with which we share the planet, with complex consciousnesses that are capable of strong emotions. Across Africa they have inspired respect from the people that share the landscape with them, giving them a strong cultural significance. India is one of the seventeen mega diverse countries of the world. Elephants have enjoyed a special place in India’s culture and tradition. They were used as a means of transport for the royalties and to fight battles, as has been captured by various frescoes. Most important, however, is the status of the elephant as a deity in the form of Lord Ganesha. For over 70 per cent of the population, elephants hold religious importance. It is disappointing to learn that today only about 27,000 wild elephants remain in India, as opposed to a million a decade ago as indicated by research. Human-elephant conflict is a major conservation concern in elephant range countries. A variety of management strategies have been developed and are practiced at different scales for preventing and mitigating human-elephant conflict. The elephant population has been declining for decades. This is due to several factors, such as habitat loss, human conflict, and hunting. Elephants are considered to be the most intelligent of all animals after humans. They are very social creatures that live in herds led by a ‘matriarch’. The leading female of the herd is called the ‘matriarch’. They help maintain the health of forests by distributing seeds by roaming over great distances.
Elephants have been a part of human society for thousands of years. Humans have been both aiding and hurting elephants for centuries. In many stories, humans and elephants live in harmony as friends. Humans have always taken advantage of the incredible strength and endurance of elephants. Elephants are necessary for the survival of forest ecosystems, and indeed many creatures. Asian elephant numbers have dropped by at least 50 per cent over the last three generations, and they’re still in decline today. With only 40,000-50,000 left in the wild, the species is classified as endangered. An elephant is killed every 15 minutes and now some believe that in 12 years the elephant population will be extinct. Poachers kill about 20,000 elephants every single year for their tusks, which are then traded illegally in the international market to eventually end up as ivory trinkets. This trade is mostly driven by demand for ivory in parts of Asia.The poaching trade began in earnest in 1971, when a severe drought killed 9,000 elephants in a Kenyan game reserve. Neighbours of the park moved in to collect ivory. In recent years, the number of elephant killings due to poaching has decreased, largely due to the worldwide ban (since 1990) on the trade of ivory. However, the illegal trade continues, and as long as it does, poachers will be a part of it. Today, witnessing a herd of elephants is becoming increasingly uncommon; as more and more elephants die prematurely every year. The illegal trade in ivory is one of the greatest threats to elephants today. Elephants are long-lived animals, and their survival depends upon regular migration over large distances to search for food, water, and social and reproductive partners .Too many elephants are getting killed in conflicts with humans! We simply cannot allow them to disappear from the face of this earth. Without the proper conservation of elephant survival we will see a drastic shift in the environment. Today as our physical world is changing fast, it is important to take a moment to reflect on and reinvent our relationship with elephants.