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 World Elephant Day 2023

Context:

Recently, on the occasion of World Elephant Day, the Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Labour and Employment highlighted various initiatives and accomplishments in India’s elephant conservation journey.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. World Elephant Day
  2. Key Highlights of Elephants

World Elephant Day

  • World Elephant Day, commemorated worldwide on August 12, serves as a dedicated occasion to raise awareness regarding the critical challenges elephants face and advocate for their protection and conservation.
  • This day sheds light on various issues impacting elephants, including habitat loss, ivory poaching, human-elephant conflicts, and the pressing need for intensified conservation efforts.
Campaign Inception:
  • The World Elephant Day campaign was launched in 2012 with the purpose of drawing attention to the dire situations faced by African and Asian elephants.
  • Its primary goal is to foster a sustainable environment where animals are not exploited but are cared for.
Founders and Initiators:
  • The initiative was initiated by Canadian filmmakers Michael Clark and Patricia Sims, in collaboration with the Thailand-based Elephant Reintroduction Foundation.
  • Patricia Sims went on to establish the World Elephant Society in 2012, which has played a significant role in generating awareness about the threats elephants encounter and the urgent global need to safeguard them.
Objectives:
  • The campaign aims to create a platform for highlighting the plight of elephants and advocating for their well-being.
  • It strives to encourage global efforts for elephant conservation, ensuring their survival in the face of challenges.
  • World Elephant Day stands as a testament to the collective efforts of individuals, organizations, and communities worldwide, united in their commitment to safeguarding these majestic creatures from threats and ensuring a brighter future for them.

Key Highlights of Elephants: Biodiversity and Conservation

  • The elephant holds the distinction of being India’s Natural Heritage Animal.
  • Elephants are recognized as “Keystone Species” due to their pivotal role in maintaining forest ecosystem balance and health.

Intelligence and Brain Size:

  • Elephants are known for their remarkable intelligence, possessing the largest brain size among all land animals.

Ecological Impact:

  • Elephants are significant grazers and browsers, consuming substantial amounts of vegetation daily and dispersing seeds as they move.
  • They influence the vegetation structure of landscapes, particularly in Asian environments.
  • In forests, elephants create open areas by clearing trees, allowing sunlight to reach new seedlings and aiding natural forest regeneration.
  • Elephants also dig for water, contributing to water access for various species.

Elephants in India:

  • India hosts the largest number of wild Asian Elephants, estimated at around 29,964 according to the 2017 Project Elephant census.
  • This accounts for roughly 60% of the global Asian Elephant population.
  • Karnataka leads with the highest elephant population, followed by Assam and Kerala.
Conservation Status:

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species

  • African Forest Elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis): Critically Endangered
  • African Savanna Elephant (Loxodonta africana): Endangered
  • Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus): Endangered
International Conservation Frameworks:

Convention on the Migratory Species (CMS):

  • African Forest Elephant: Appendix II
  • Asian Elephant: Appendix I

Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES):

  • African Savanna Elephant: Appendix II
  • Asian Elephant: Appendix I

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