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article imageTask force seeks to end trampling deaths by elephants in India

By Nicole Karns     Sep 10, 2010 in Environment
Over 400 Indians are fatally stomped by elephants each year. A report released by the Elephant Task Force in India vows to put an end to the elephant-human conflict across the nation.
The report, released Aug. 31, states that due to the elephant habitats coming under immense pressure from land development, elephants have been forced to move into areas they would not have gone before as their ecological stability has been threatened. This has created many occurrences for humans to interact with the huge animals in the wild.
Two farmers in Anekal, a forested bit of the south Indian state of Karnataka, were in their fields this summer when a pair of cow elephants and a calf emerged from the trees. Protective of the calf, the animals chased and trampled the men. The people of India are now asking the government to step in to prevent these incidents from happening again.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests have put together the Elephant Task Force for just that purpose. In the ETF’s latest report [PDF], they ask to increase the number of reserves across the country as well as to expand the existing reserves. The ETF also is seeking the status of Ecologically Sensitive Area for the reserves under the Environmental Protection Act in an effort to thwart more land development. In order to maintain control of where the animals roam, they are asking for legally protected elephant corridors to be built to lead them from one reserve area to the next. This would eliminate the possibility of farmer’s encroaching on the elephants’ established migratory paths as is the case in Anekal.
The ETF also believes that by establishing stricter rules surrounding farming and when to farm certain crops in particular areas, the number of elephant-human encounters will drop as well.
For years, India has worked fairly diligently to protect its elephant population but other factors have come into play bringing the population down to just 26,000 wild elephants left. Many are hit by trains or cars, or electrocuted by low-hanging power lines. Others fall victim to ivory poachers. Unlike African elephants, only the males have tusks, which has skewed the gender ratio in some places to one male for every 100 females.
India also places great religious and traditional status with the mighty creature explaining why over 3,500 of the animals are kept in captivity for events such as temple rituals or political parades.
The Elephant Task Force stated eight recommendations in its report including the phasing out of all elephants held in commercial captivity, as well as a complete ban on all poaching.
The government will also name the elephant a “national heritage animal”, giving it the same protection as the tiger. This is not cause for celebration according to the Economist. Four decades after setting up of Project Tiger, the big-cat population has continued its disastrous fall from 40,000 a century ago to 1,400 now. A future that India does not want repeated with its beloved elephant.
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