News Excerpt
On the eve of World Elephant day which falls on 12th August every year, a compendium on Best practices of Human-Elephant Conflict Management in India launched by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

•    Population: India has the largest number of wild Asian Elephants, estimated at 29,964 according to 2017 census by Project Elephant, i.e. about 60% of the species’ global population.
•    Reason for Human-Animal Conflict: Loss of natural habitat and fragmentation have been bringing wild elephants closer to human habitations, sparking these conflicts. Over 500 humans are killed in encounters with elephants annually, and crops and property worth millions are also damaged. Many elephants are also killed in retaliation due to conflict.
•    There are about 30 elephant reserves across the country covering about 65,000 sq. km. but the reserves and corridors have poor legal protection.

Conflict Management Practices in India
o    To tackle the incidents of conflict and avoid losses on both sides, it is important to strengthen the human-elephant coexistence through by active management interventions.
o    A variety of management strategies and practices has been developed and customized are implemented at different scales by stakeholders.

Key Factor    Reason    Evolved Best Practices (As per Compendium)
1.    Retaining Elephants in Their Natural Habitat

    o    Elephant often leave natural habitat due to emerging of extreme climatic factors, some of them induced by climate change    o    To improve system availability of water, Waterholes are created and filled with water naturally or artificially.
o    Due to extreme dry conditions in certain ranges, adequate water availability in forest is a big issue. Solar powered bore wells have been established to tackle this issue.
o    Water management and distribution is largely done by leveraging gravitational force to channelize the flow of water.
2.    Habitat Management Activities

Project Elephant, Zoological Survey of India, Forest Survey of India, PISFR, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Central Zoo Authority

Some Facts:
    The MoEFCC has launched a portal on Human-Elephants Conflict called “Surakhsya” for collection of real time information & also for managing the conflicts on a real time basis will help to set the data collection protocols, data transmission pipelines and data visualization tools to enable policy-makers to leverage HEC data for policy formulation and for preparation of Action Plans for mitigation of conflicts.
    World Elephant Day is celebrated on August 12 is an international annual event.
    Asian elephants are listed as “Endangered" on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. The current population estimates indicate that there are about 50,000 -60000 Asian elephants in the world. More than 60 % of the population is held in India.
    Indian Elephant has also been listed in the Appendix I of the Convention of the Migratory species in the recently concluded Conference of Parties of CMS 13 at Gandhi Nagar, Gujarat in February 2020.

    o    Due to rapid habitat losses because of forest fires, elephants ingresses in human settlements that cause conflict.    o    Creation of in-situ fodder.
o    Pro-Active fire management and control.
o    Collection and sowing of Grass seeds.
o    Weed removal etc.
3.    Restricting Elephants in their natural habitat    o    Due to widespread incidents of human-animal conflict    o    Construction of elephant trenches, Rubble wall, Solar powered high electric fences will be utilized to limit the movement of elephant.
4.     Others        o    Removal of elephants from human areas.
o    Creation of Bio-fencing, iron Fencing etc. to limit the movement of elephants.
o    Establishment of community channel for any kind of elephant ingression.
o    Use of technology to mitigate elephant conflict

    The government’s approach to minimise human-elephant conflict by restricting the movement of elephant is not a prudent way of conservation.
    The document lists out the use of concrete and iron fences among the best practices to stop the movement of elephants, even as there are examples of these measures proving fatal for India’s national heritage animal, such so-called best practices’ will be detrimental to the protection of elephants.For instance, in 2018, an elephant died in Karnataka’s Nagarhole National Park while it was trying to leap over an iron fence made using old railway tracks.
    Elephant corridors have a poor legal protection that means forest land in such areas can easily be diverted for any non-forest purpose like Infrastructure development project etc. This aspect is largely unaddressed in Compendium.
    It is essential that elephant–human conflict mitigation becomes an integral part of the national elephant conservation policy. Currently there is an inordinate stress on conflict mitigation measures such as erecting electric fences, while little is done to consolidate elephant habitat or formulate land-use plans.
    Trans-border cooperation is needed to manage elephant populations across India’s international borders with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. Development of a rigorous decision-making framework will require the participation of social scientists and economists.
    In several areas, it is small isolated populations of elephants causing conflict. They are sinks for conservation resources and may provide no long-term benefits for the species – conservation action plans for populations based on their long-term viability is a necessity.

Way Forward
There is a need for a clear policy and strategic planning. In the absence of policy, there is an inordinate focus on the symptoms rather than the causes of the problem. The current approach to dealing with conflict is largely ad hoc, and predisposed to failure because of inappropriate application of methods, lack of involvement of local people, lack of monitoring of conflict and conflict mitigation measures, and inadequate understanding of elephant ecology in deploying mitigation strategies.