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Common survey to count elephants and big cats:

GS Paper 3:

Syllabus: Conservation related issues.

 

Context:

The government of India, for the first time this year, will present a unified count of the tiger, leopard and elephant populations of the country.

 

Benefits of the new method:

Given that 90% of the area occupied by elephants and tigers is common, and once estimation methods are standardised, having a common survey can significantly save costs.

  • Also, the ‘head count’ method, or one currently deployed to count elephants was “obsolete” and frequently led to animals being double counted.

 

How are they counted currently?

Currently, the tiger survey is usually held once in four years and elephants are counted once in five years.

  1. Since 2006, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, which is affiliated to the Environment Ministry, has a standardised protocol in place that States then use to estimate tiger numbers. Based on sightings in camera traps and indirect estimation methods, tiger numbers are computed.
  2. Elephant numbers largely rely on States directly counting the number of elephants. In recent years, techniques such as analysing dung samples have also been deployed to estimate birth rates and population trends in elephants.

 

Numbers:

  • According to the most recent 2018-19 survey, there were 2,967 tigers in India.
  • According to the last count in 2017, there were 29,964 elephants in India.

 

Efforts aimed at conservation of Elephants and their corridors at all- India level:

  • ‘Gaj Yatra’, a nationwide campaign to protect elephants, was launched on the occasion of World Elephant Day in 2017. The campaign is planned to cover 12 elephant range states.
  • The campaign aims to create awareness about elephant corridors to encourage free movement in their habitat.

 

Forest Ministry guide to managing human-elephant conflict (Best Practices):

  1. Retaining elephants in their natural habitats by creating water sources and management of forest fires.
  2. Elephant Proof trenches in Tamil Nadu.
  3. Hanging fences and rubble walls in Karnataka.
  4. Use of chili smoke in north Bengal and playing the sound of bees or carnivores in Assam.
  5. Use of technology: Individual identification, monitoring of elephants in south Bengal and sending SMS alerts to warn of elephant presence.

 

Efforts by Private Organizations in this regard:

  • Asian Elephant Alliance, an umbrella initiative by five NGOs, had, last year, come together to secure 96 out of the 101 existing corridors used by elephants across 12 States in India.
  • NGOs Elephant Family, International Fund for Animal Welfare, IUCN Netherlands and World Land Trust have teamed up with Wildlife Trust of India’s (WTI) in the alliance.

 

About Asian Elephants:

  1. Asian elephants are listed as “endangered” on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.
  2. More than 60% of the world’s elephant population is in India.
  3. Elephant is the Natural Heritage Animal of India.

 

Insta Curious:

Did you know that Project Elephant was launched in 1992 by the Government of India Ministry of Environment and Forests to provide financial and technical support of wildlife management efforts by states for their free ranging populations of wild Asian Elephants?

 

Have you heard of Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG)? Reference

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. IUCN conservation status of Asian Elephant.
  2. Elephant corridors in India.
  3. Calving period of elephants.

Mains Link:

Discuss the measures suggested by the Environment Ministry to manage man- elephant conflicts.

Sources: the Hindu.