By Vishal Gulati
New Delhi, November 15 (IANS) India has sought inclusion of the Asian elephant in the global list of endangered species, providing the strictest protections as they frequently come into conflict with people.
A proposal for including the mainland Asian elephant or Indian elephant in Appendix 1 of the Convention of Migratory Species has been submitted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
It will be taken up at the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS COP13).
India is hosting the COP13 from February 17 to 22, 2020.
Approximately 1,500 delegates, including representatives of national governments, international organisations, scientists, conservation groups and other wildlife experts will gather in Gandhinagar in Gujarat for the meeting.
CMS COP13 will be guided by the theme: 'Migratory species connect the planet and together we welcome them home'.
The Indian elephant is a large, social, intelligent, endangered and long-ranging migratory animal, which is trying to survive in continually shrinking, degraded and fragmented habitat, says a proposal accessed by IANS.
They frequently come into conflicts with people, with large number of people and elephants killed and injured, during train hits, electrocution, crop raiding, poaching, poisoning, etc.
India, being the home to 60 per cent of the global Asian elephant population, has a primary duty and responsibility for ensuring their conservation by seeking natural migration in all range countries through bringing the subspecies under Appendix I of CMS Convention.
The two other sub-species of the Asian elephant (Sri Lankan and Sumatran) and the proposed sub-species (Bornean) are island sub species and as such do not migrate as per CMS Convention norms, says the proposal.
A spokesperson for the COP13 told IANS that proposals for CMS Appendix I (for endangered species) include the Asian elephant, the Great Indian Bustard, the Bengal florican, the antipodean albatross, and the oceanic white-tip shark.
The smooth hammerhead shark, the tope shark, and the urial (wild sheep) have been proposed for listing under CMS Appendix II (migratory species with an unfavourable conservation status).
Threats to the Asian elephant include habitat loss and fragmentation, poisoning, poaching, illegal trade, and obstacles to migration such as railways.
According to the proposal, human-elephant conflict is a major challenge for elephant conservation as it generates negative sentiment towards conservation within the affected communities and also results in retaliatory killings, which in India and Sri Lanka is a bigger threat than poaching.
Land use changes within the range of transboundary population can result in increased human-elephant conflict and lead to increased retaliatory killings and also reduce support for elephant conservation in such areas.
This is particularly important to avoid for range states with small populations and as such requires good management and protection of habitat within and across the border.
The population of the Asian elephant in the wild is estimated to be about 44,500 to 47,835 and in captivity is about 14,440 to 14,640 in 13 range countries across South and Southeast Asia spread over an area of 486,800 sq kms.
In China, elephants are extinct from most parts of the country and are now confined to a small population in Yunnan.
Its population in Vietnam and Myanmar are under great threat with only 100-130 elephants left in the wild in the former.
Quoting All India Synchronised Elephant Population Census of 2017, the proposal says the total population of wild elephants in 30 reserves in the country is 29,964.
There are approximately 3,500 elephants in captivity.
The Indian government has accorded the highest degree of legal protection to elephants and listed it under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972.
Unlike India, the Asian elephant is not provided a high degree of protection during their migration to Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Burma.
They are vulnerable to poaching for ivory and food and capture for use as captive animals.
In Myanmar, there have been reports of elephants being poached for their skin.
(Vishal Gulati can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)