World Elephant Day: Students of Indian Arts college march to save tuskers

Wildlife trust of India launches 15-month awareness-cum-action campaign to secure degraded elephant corridors and improving elephant habitat.

August 12 is celebrated as World Elephant Day ever since it was established in 2012. Worldwide, Elephants are increasingly under threat from poachers and trophy hunters. The Asian elephant is listed as endangered while the African Bush Elephants are classed as vulnerable. To create awareness about the need to protect this majestic land behemoth, a rally was conducted in the State of Tamil Nadu in India on August 11.

As reported by The Hindu, B. Ramakrishnan, an assistant professor in wildlife biology, Government Arts College, Udhagamandalam, told the newspaper, "We wanted to create awareness among the 1,500 students studying in the college on the need to protect elephants." B. Ramakrishnan also member of the IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group.

As noted by The Hindu, more than 100 students of the Departments of Zoology and Wildlife Biology of the said Government Arts College in Udhagamandalam, popularly known as Ooty, marched inside the college premises on Friday, wearing elephant masks to create awareness among the college students. They demanded that the elephant population, along with their corridors and habitats be protected.

Also, Bollywood actress and ambassador of Wildlife Trust of India, Dia Mirza, penned a piece for Times of India, published today, explaining why elephants are vital for our ecosystem and require advocating for the need to keep open elephant corridors in the country.

Clearing of forests due to the practice of shifting agriculture has caused habitat loss for elephants in Northeastern Indian states. This type of agriculture is also known to be practised in Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand, Congo, Madagascar, Bolivia, Sweden and in a natural reserve in Finland.

Habitat loss has led to increasing incidents of man-animal conflicts. NDTV reported that as per government figures, endangered elephants and tigers are reportedly killing one person a day in India. This is happening because vast tracts of forest lands are being cleared every year due to urbanisation, leaving the animals with no choice but to defend their territories violently. In the process, many animals are losing their lives. NDTV also notes that man is killing a leopard a day too, as per latest figures.

According to the environment ministry, notes NDTV, 345 tigers and 84 elephants were killed between April 2014 and May 2017. Tito Joseph of the Wildlife Protection Society of India told AFP, "Rampant killing of wildlife is ongoing in India. Hundreds of leopards, tigers and elephants are killed for their body parts." This is also true of other nations like Thailand and African territories where the animals are killed for their ivory tusks.

Recently, an elephant that accidentally strayed from its herd and lost its way had reportedly killed 15 people in the Indian states of Jharkhand and Bihar. Unfortunately, the forest department was not able to tranquilise the animal and had it shot dead on August 11, Hindustan Times reported. The animal was believed to be highly stressed as a result of which it attacked people.

Elephants are often killed by trains in India while crossing tracks that are built through forest corridors which have been home to these animals for thousands of years. Then there are cases of physical and psychological abuse for entertainment purposes, which happen all over the world, in many zoos as well as circuses.

It is therefore good news that children, the future of any nation, are advocating awareness on the need to protect elephants. Also, as reported by The Assam Tribune, a nationwide 15-month awareness-cum-action campaign titled 'Gaja Yatra' is being launched today across India. Initiated by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) in association with the Government of India's Project Elephant and Partners, the goal of this campaign is the same as that of the students of the Ooty Arts College.

World Elephant Day was conceived in 2011 by Canadian filmmakers Patricia Sims and Michael Clark and Sivaporn Dardarananda of the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation in Thailand and founded by them the following year.