India’s mammoth problem: Elephants threatened by poaching and illegal wildlife trade
In India, the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) was once widely distributed throughout the country, including in states like Punjab and Gujarat. Currently, they are found only in 14 states, in four fragmented populations, in South, North, Central and North-east India. The elephant has been accorded the highest possible protection under the Indian wildlife law through its listing under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 of India. This means that hunting/trading this species can attract rigorous imprisonment of up to seven years and a minimum fine of 25000 INR. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has listed the Asian Elephant in Appendix I which prohibits all commercial international trade of the species.
Domestic demand is one of the drivers for elephant ivory in India, with a few communities of Western India using it for bangles and other for decorative ornamental purposes. Poaching for meat and other products like tail hair also pose threats to populations, especially in North-east India. Ivory is also smuggled out to countries like Japan and China via Thailand, Singapore, and Philippines. Usages vary from Japanese hanko, artifacts, wedding bangles, trophies and medicines.
Dr Shekhar Kumar Niraj, the Head of TRAFFIC India, shedding light on the current trend of elephant poaching in the country said, “The current poaching hotspots are the similar to what they were about two decades ago, in the elephant rich habitat of Western Ghats, spanning the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, as well as in Orissa and Assam. There is clear evidence of increase in poaching of elephants in last few years. Though it is early to comment on the ongoing investigations, it is being speculated that some of the ivory entering the market could be from privately owned or ‘captive’ elephants, which is equally illegal. In the case of captive elephants, the ivory is generally scrapped at the tip of the tusk, which takes about a year to regrow, making it a steady source. Lack of effective intelligence could be a stumbling block in stopping elephant poaching.”
TRAFFIC, as a division of WWF-India, and a country office of the global wildlife trade network, has been striving to help curb poaching and illegal trade of several wild fauna and flora species including the elephants. This is being done through various means which include bridging the gap in effective wildlife law enforcement in India through actionable information support, capacity building programmes, training sniffer dogs for wildlife crime detection and prevention, conducting research and providing analysis on wildlife trade and its trends, awareness generation and encouraging international collaborations to fight wildlife crime.
For any queries please contact Dr Shekhar Kumar Niraj, Head of TRAFFIC India at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 09868178927 or you can contact Dilpreet B. Chhabra, Senior Manager-Communications, TRAFFIC India at email@example.com or call her at 09899000472.
TRAFFIC is a strategic alliance of WWF and IUCN. It was established in 1976 and since then it has developed a considerable international reputation for helping to identify and address conservation challenges linked to trade in wild animals and plants. In India, TRAFFIC carries out research and provides analysis, support and encouragement to efforts aimed at ensuring that wildlife trade is not a threat to conservation of nature in India. TRAFFIC in India operates as a programme division of WWF–India, the largest conservation organization in India.
www.trafficindia.org ; www.traffic.org ; www.wwfindia.net