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This Wildlife Day, A Look At The Grave Danger Elephants Are Facing In India

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By Rajeshwari Ganesan:

Note: This article has been republished from Down To Earth.

Image credit: N. A. Naseer/CSE.

The main focus of United Nations World Wildlife Day on March 3 this year is “the future of elephants is in our hands” with the overall theme being “the future of wildlife is in our hands.” Wildlife Day marks the signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) of the CITES—to be held from 24 September to 5 October 2016 in Johannesburg—will be held on the issue of ivory trade and the debate around National Ivory Action Plans (NIAPs). African nations have been demanding a rollback of the ban on ivory trade to generate revenue to aid in conservation efforts. On the other hand, CITES, that had imposed this ban in 1989 has been focusing on formulating “guidelines to strengthen controls of the trade in ivory and ivory markets.”

India’s Man-Elephant Conflict

In India, while poaching for tusks continues to be a large-scale phenomenon, it is the man-elephant conflict which has been creating a furore. The pachyderm is accorded with the highest degree of protection in Indian laws under the Schedule-1 of the Wildlife Protection Act.

According to Project Elephant, three percent of India’s land total surface is elephant country and only 10 percent of this is affected by conflict. However, wild elephants probably kill far more people than tigers, leopards or lions, says the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC). According to MoEFCC data, 391 people and 39 elephants died in 2014-15 across India as a result. This is an improvement from last year when 413 human casualties and 72 elephant deaths were recorded and from 2012-13 that saw 422 humans casualties and 101 elephants deaths.

However, Rs 34.52 crore was given as compensation because of elephant ravages in 2014-15 as opposed to Rs 30.29 crore in 2013-2014. This indicates that elephants are increasingly foraging for food outside the ‘designated’ forest areas. Factors like habitat loss and shrinkage and degradation of elephant range can be linked to this increase.

India has 27 formally notified elephant reserves extending over about 60,000 square kilometres. There are about 88 elephant corridors, which experts say, are heavily fragmented and only 24 percent of the corridors are under complete forest cover. According to P. Aravindan, a wildlife biologist based in Coimbatore with expertise on elephants, a fragmented corridor is as good as no corridor. “If we take the Western Ghats, for example, it is amongst the most conducive habitats for elephants. The concentration of Asiatic elephants in one place is the highest in the Western Ghats. However, about 70 percent of the area falling under designated elephant corridor is one kilometre or less. It is that fragmented. How does the elephant travel, then? This leads to conflict as the human settlements in these corridors are primarily agrarian and elephants are lured to the food crops,” he explains.

Furthermore, elephants are highly mobile creatures and a herd needs to travel at least 10 to 20 kilometres a day. “If we think elephants can be restricted to an area of about 100 square kilometres, we are taking away their basic behaviour. They need tonnes of vegetation as food every day. If we try and constrict them to smaller areas, they are bound to ravage the area in a matter of days. So, elephants being on the move is healthy not only for them but for entire forest comprising of other species as well,” says S.S. Bist, emeritus scientist at Wildlife Institute of India and former director of Project Elephant.

As per the elephant census held in 2007-08, the estimated population of elephants in India is between 27,669 and 27,719 individuals. In May 2015, a ministry-commissioned panel to study elephant migration had proposed to inject female elephants with a contraceptive vaccine to control their population in the wild.

If a viable solution to the man-elephant conflict is not reached at the earliest, this — coupled with the lucrative ivory trade — will serve as the death-knell for the elephants.

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  1. Ramesh

    There were several cases where elephants attached villages and destroyed fields, as several villages are situated inside the sanctuaries. Some of these villagers are also supporting poachers for money. All human settlements should be moved out of sanctuary limits. Also, the size of some major sanctuaries has been dramatically reduced recently.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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