Conservation of large mammals like Asian elephants that require large territories to perform its ecological functions is a big challenge for conservationists and forest departments. Wildlife managers are severely handicapped by stringent legal requirements, lack of financial resources as well as technical skils apart from social pressures generated locally in conflict situation. Conservationists and Forest Officers are constantly endeavouring to establish harmonious coexistence between Humans and Elephants. Making an effort in the same direction, Amity School of Natural Resources & Sustainable Development (ASNRSD) in collaboration with Amity Institute of Global Warming and Ecological Studies (AIGWES) has organized a three Day Workshop (June 15 – 17, 2011) on “Conservation of Asian Elephants in Fragmented Habitat: Issues and Challenges” at Amity University Campus, Sector -125, Noida with the objective to provide a common platform to the eminent Academicians, Environmentalists, Biologists, Ecologists, Conservationists, Zoologists etc of National and International stature along with rural dwellers from various regions of the country to coercively brainstorm and discuss the critical issue of elephant conservation in order to find a solution.
Inaugurating the workshop H.E Mr. Prasad Kariyawasam, High Commissioner, Sri Lanka expressed immense pleasure in being a part of this workshop based on such a vital Global concern. Sharing his views on the theme of the workshop he informed “Humans and elephants can co - exist harmoniously in India when there are set boundaries for both. The respective landscapes for both humans and elephants are highly intermeshed and that’s why the challenge of sustainable elephant conservation is becoming more complex. Establishing of parks and reserves is one way of ensuring habitat for elephants. Protected pathways between forest fragments can help decrease the number of human – animal conflicts. There is great need for a long term plan which aims at reduction of human elephant conflicts through a variety of measures. The solution is likely to emerge from rigorous study and insight developing practices of Elephant biology and behaviour. Support of sustained policies and good will of the people play a pivotal role in minimizing the problem if not mitigate it. Local population living in the fringes of the forest are necessarily required to be a part of the endeavour for ferreting out a solution that is of mutual benefit to elephants and mankind.”
Delivering his key note address Mr. A.K. Srivastava, IFS, Inspector General of Forest (Wildlife) & Director, Wildlife Preservation Ministry of Environment & Forest said “In India, according to Hindu mythology elephants are associated with Lord Ganesha who is the God of all new beginnings. Despite which, there has been a drastic decline in numbers of wild elephants due to various anthropogenic factors including increasing human population, degradation of forest habitat, fragmentation of breeding populations resulting in greater Human – Elephant Conflicts (HEC). There is great need to educate the rural dwellers that elephants are the keystone species for protection of biodiversity and eco systems in which they inhabit and also they are of immense importance for our biophysical and ecological security.”
During his interaction with the distinguished participants of the workshop Dr. Ashok. K. Chauhan, Founder President, Amity Group said “Amity is committed to the cause of conservation of environment and will continue to seek dialogues with the State and the Centre with the aim of providing a better understanding and practical solutions to the issue.” “This workshop will assume great significance in bridging the gap between scientific knowledge and wildlife management to formulate effective policies not only to control the existing cases of HECs, but also to prevent the future possibilities of HECs”, he hoped.
Wishing great success to the workshop Maj. Gen K Jai Singh, Vice Chancellor, Amity University Uttar Pradesh (AUUP) informed that many of the current isolated elephant habitats are threatened by fragmentation due to developmental activities. Obstruction of their natural migratory path results in the growth of human elephant conflicts. A crucial factor for ensuring survival of elephants lies in establishment of effective corridors to connect their habitats. “The prime reason behind the alarming quagmire of ecological imbalance is the robustly increasing greed in mankind. However, Government of India’s project ‘Elephant’ (since last 20 years) has helped to an extent in this direction, yet more needs to be done with the cooperation of the citizens to arrive at a holistic solution.”, he added
During his address Dr, J.C Kala, Honorary Director General, AIGWES said “Human beings have emerged as a major evolutionary force which despite lacking the knowledge of controlling biosphere, has the power to change it radically. Mankind has continued to encroach upon the habitat of the elephants therefore the latter cannot be held blameworthy for having strutted out of the forests and destroyed human habitat. Each human being is a part of the human – elephant conflict and henceforth an integral part of the solution as well.”
“The consequences of human – elephant conflicts are not only the key of conservation concerns but also are major socio – economic and political issues. Therefore, resolution of human – elephant conflict is a major concern and a high priority for conservation of elephants in the range of countries”, emphasized Prof. B.K.P Sinha, Director, ASNRSD while delivering his welcome address.
Ms. Kamla Kaida, Sarpanch, Almora Distict, Uttarakhand – Participant of the workshop said that elephants invade the human habitat primarily in search of water and fodder. In order to prevent this, it is important to ensure shelter, fodder and water for them adequately in the forests. “This workshop is a great platform for the rural people, who are the real experience holders of HECs and the Conservationists to be exchanging views to find a pragmatic solution to the issues of HECs”, she added.
Mr. Ba Hla Aye, Embassy of the republic of Myanmar, also a participant of the workshop informed that an elephant needs 2 Kg of fodder and 100 litres of water on a daily basis to survive. It is the inadequacy of fodder and water in the forests that leads them to human habitat for survival. Man should take measures to preserve fodder, water and shelter (caves) for them to prevent them from invading human habitat. I am convinced that the synergy efforts of the Scientists, Academicians, Farmers, Conservationists during the workshop will develop effective measures to curb the possibilities of HECs.
The inaugural ceremony of the workshop was followed by an invigorating interactive session between the various participants of the workshop and senior representatives of Amity that was preceded by two technical sessions. Mr. A.K. Srivastava presented his valuable views during the first technical session on “The Conservation of Elephant in Fragmented Habitat – The Ministry’s View Points”. Mr. A.N. Prasad, IFS, Chief Vigilance Officer, NPCC, Delhi and Dr. P.S. Easa, Kerala Forest Research Institute discussed on “Policy Framework and Instruments for Elephant Conservation” and “Conserving the Habitat Fragments and Isolated Elephant Populations - The Science and Challenges” respectively during the second technical session.
Also present during the inauguration of the workshop were diplomats from various countries including Srilanka, U.S, Myanmar etc.
A plethora of insightful technical sessions on topics including “Landscape/Landuse Planning for the Conservation and Management of Elephants” “Conservation and Management of Fragmented Elephant Population with Special Reference to Northern West Bengal Elephant Population”, “Engineering Solution to Fragmentation of Elephants Habitats Due to Linear Developments – Road, Rail Line and Wide-Deep Canal”, “Mitigation of Elephant Mortality Due to Train Accident”, “Techniques to Reduce Crop Loss: Human and Technical Dimensions”, “Animal Rights Akin to Human Rights”, “Role of Megaherbivores in the Ecosystem”, “Conservation of Elephant and Mitigation of HEC through Community Participation in Chirang Ripu Elephant Reserve” by eminent wildlife experts and researchers will be unfolded during the course of the three day workshop.