Man-animal conflict is an existential crisis not for animals, but for human beings, Union Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu said today, and stressed the need to address the root cause behind it. Outlining a few ways how the conflict can be avoided, he said protection of wilderness and forests is necessary to protect any wildlife species. He asserted that there is a need to explain “this existential crisis” to the human population.
Prabhu said the human population must urgently focus on optimising conservation efforts. Addressing a gathering to celebrate the World Elephant Day today at the Indira Gandhi Centre for National Arts in New Delhi, the Union minister acknowledged the sacrifice of S Manikandan and his family.
Senior IFS officer Manikandan died in March after he was attacked by a wild tusker in Nagarahole Tiger Reserve. Prabhu conferred the “Best Elephant Warrior Award” to Manikandan. The objective behind celebrating the World Elephant Day is to focus attention of stakeholders to support conservation policies, including improving enforcement policies to prevent the illegal poaching and trade of ivory, conserving elephant habitats, providing better treatment to captive elephants and reintroducing some captive elephants into sanctuaries.
Director General of Forests Siddhanta Das said in the quest for development, human intervention has fragmented habitats of elephants and destroyed forests, which in turn has led to the occurrence of man-animal conflict.
“Elephants keep walking an eating for 18 hours a day and defecate half-digested food, including grass, bamboo and leaves over a wide area, giving rise to another chain of events. If elephants are confined to one place, nature’s linkage is broken,” Das said, pointing out the need to protect their habitat and corridors.
Actor Dia Mirza, brand ambassador of Wildlife Trust of India, said the only way to involve more and more people in conservation efforts is to build a narrative of engagement. Mirza hoped that ‘Gaj Mahotsav’ will provide an opportunity to conservationists, policy-makers, people and particularly children, to come together to conserve and protect wildlife and elephants, in particular.
The Environment Ministry and Wildlife Trust of India kicked off the ‘Gaj Mahotsav’ today. The four-day celebration will continue till August 15 and will include sessions on policy, art exhibitions, film shows, music and entertainment.
An area has been earmarked on IGNCA lawns for the display and sale of elephant-themed products and produce from various NGOs invited to showcase their work. The 101 elephants displayed at IGNCA during Gaj Mahotsav symbolize the 101 elephant corridors that need to be protected, an official statement said.
During the event, the award for making a significant contribution to the cause of conservation of the Asian elephant was given to John Burton and Vivien Burton. The efforts of the Assam government in putting back 15 elephants into the wild were also acknowledged.
“Mere Desh Ki Zameen” – the “Wild Anthem” composed by lyricist Prasoon Joshi and sung by Shreya Ghoshal, Sunidhi Chauhan, Vishal Dadlani and Benny Dayal was also released.
A presentation by the Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust, directed by Dadi Pudumjee, using specially created, colouful ‘Tolu Bomblatta shadow puppets’ from Andhra Pradesh was made before the gathering.