Stately moment for elephants

Jumbo honour

Stately moment for elephants

The giant beasts have found their place.

Mindful that elephants have symbolised India to worlds beyond its borders for centuries, though they have also been mercilessly poached for their priceless tusks, the Centre is all set to declare the pachyderm a “national heritage animal” hoping that the tag would help in conserving the animal in a big way.

Besides, the government will create a national elephant conservation authority, severely restrict developmental activities close to at least critical elephant corridors and may phase out captive elephants from temples in a graded manner.

“We will soon declare elephant as a national heritage animal as they have been part of our heritage since ages. We need to give the same degree of importance to elephant as is given to tiger to protect the big animal,” Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said after receiving the report of an experts panel on elephant conservation.
According to the report, there are about 25,000 elephants in the country, including 3,500 in captivity in zoos and temples, particularly in southern and north-eastern states. Wild elephants are seen in 88 corridors.

Dealing with temple elephants, the government found, that it is a tricky issue. The Centre has asked the experts panel to discuss the issue with temple management before suggesting a course of action. The experts will discuss the issue with the management of Guruvayur temple, which has the highest number of captive elephants.

In its report, the 12-member panel suggested a mandatory registration system for existing elephants in temples and private people after inserting a microchip in the animal. But it would be only for the existing animals as no new elephants would be allowed to register.

The registration would give only the “guardianship” of the elephants and not “ownership” to the temples and other persons. An one-time amnesty would be given to all present owners. “The usage of elephants in circuses should be banned and their use for alms discouraged. This category of privately owned elephants should follow the precedent of phasing out as per the 1991 ban of the five categories of wild animals (lion, tiger, leopard, bears and monkeys) in circuses,” said panel chairperson Mahesh Rangarajan.

Ramesh said the Wildlife (Protection) Act would be amended to pave way for setting up of the NECA on the lines of the national tiger conservation authority.

The panel also recommended declaring five zones immediately as elephant landscape where conservation should be given priority. Out of the five only Brahmagiri-Nilgiri-Eastern Ghats is in the southern India. Another five zones may be given the same status later and elephant reserves would be created.

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