Indian Union Environment Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, launched ‘Gaj Yatra’ in a nationwide campaign to protect elephants on the occasion of World Elephant Day. The campaign is planned to cover 12 elephant range states.
During the period of the campaign, artists and craftsmen will create life-size works on the theme of elephants in places along the route of the roadshow, covering 12 states that have wild elephants, using local art and craft.
Specially fabricated vehicles will be deployed to display these on pre-determined routes with campaigners. The ‘Gaju’ mascot, which was released by the Ministry in 2012, will be helm the campaign. The campaign will be led by the Wildlife Trust of India.
World Elephant Day is an annual global event celebrated across the world on August 12, dedicated to the preservation and protection of elephants. The goal of World Elephant Day is to create awareness about the plight of elephants and to share knowledge and positive solutions for the better care and management of captive and wild elephants. African elephants are listed as “vulnerable” and Asian elephants as “endangered” in the IUCN Red List of threatened species.
As per the available population estimates, there are about 400,000 African elephants and 40,000 Asian elephants.
World Elephant Day is celebrated to focus the attention of various stakeholders in supporting various conservation policies to help protect elephants, including improving enforcement policies to prevent illegal poaching and trade in ivory, conserving elephant habitats, providing better treatment for captive elephants and reintroducing captive elephants into sanctuaries.
The elephant is part of India’s animal heritage and the Government celebrates this day to spread awareness about the conservation of the species.
Though a nation-wide population census exercise for elephants is conducted every five years, this is the first time than an all-India synchronised elephant census was carried out one year in advance, to avoid errors in estimation arising from the significant movement of elephants across different states. The field operations of the census were completed in May 2017 and data has been compiled on direct count, indirect count (dung count), waterhole and salt lick observations. Elephant distribution mapping has also been done.
The Environment Minister released the All India Census 2017 Report on elephants as also the Agreed Points of Action on Trans-Boundary Conservation of Elephants by India and Bangladesh and a document titled ‘Right of Passage’ on elephant corridors in India.
A compilation, ‘Glimpses of Initiatives Taken for Elephant Conservation in India (2012-2017) based on Parliamentary Questions and Replies’ by ENVIS Centre, WWF-India and the Project Elephant Division, MoEF&CC, was also released.
The publication covers the concerned environmental issues in the form of a compact disc, which can serve as a ready reference source for scientists, policy-makers, technocrats and others concerned with the cause of conservation and sustainable development. Later, Dr. Vardhan administered a pledge on elephant conservation to the children present on the occasion.
World Elephant Day was conceived in 2011 by Canadian filmmakers Ms. Patricia Sims and Mr. Michael Clark of Canazwest Pictures and the Secretary- General of the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation of Thailand, Sivaporn Dardarananda. It was officially funded, supported and launched by Ms. Sims and the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation on August 12, 2012.