By-Smt. Kalpana Palkhiwala :Project Elephant (PE), a centrally sponsored scheme, was launched in February 1992 to provide financial and technical support to major elephant bearing States in the country for protection of elephants, their habitats and corridors. It also seeks to address the issues of human-elephant conflict and welfare of domesticated elephants. The Project is being implemented in 13 States/Union Territories-Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Tamil Nadu , Uttranchal , Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Based on the proposals received in the form of Annual Plan of Operations, the Government provides financial and technical assistance to State/Union Territories for wildlife protection under the various Centrally Sponsored Schemes – Development of National Parks and Sanctuaries, Project Tiger and Project Elephant. During the current financial year, i.e. 2007-08, the Government of Maharashtra has submitted proposals worth Rs. 15.75 crores to the Central Government for wildlife conservation
The funds under the Schemes – Development of National Parks and Sanctuaries, Project Tiger and Project Elephant are released after scrutiny of the proposals received from the State/Union Territory Governments and also subject to the availability of funds and fulfillment of procedural requirements.
Various activities are being carried out under this project. Existing natural habitats and migratory routes of elephants are restored ecologically. Scientific and planned management is being developed for conservation of elephant habitats and viable population of wild Asiatic elephants in India to reduce man elephant conflict. In crucial habitats, promotional measures are being applied- domestic stock activities in crucial elephant habitats have been stopped, wild elephants are given protection against poachers and also against unnatural cause of deaths, research on elephant management related issues, public education and awareness programmes and Eco-development are other measures under implementation.
Enumeration of Elephants
First time an exclusive exercise for enumeration of wild elephants in the Elephant Reserves was done during Feb-May 2005. This exercise also sought to experiment with two sampling methods, Block Sampling and Line Transact-Dung Count (with Retrospective Method of Calculating Dung Decay Rate).
Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants
Project Elephant has been formally implementing MIKE (Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants) programme in 10 Elephant Reserves since April 1, 2004: the Shiwalik (Uttaranchal); Eastern Dooars (West Bengal); Mayurbhanj (Orissa); Ripu-Chirang and Dehing-Patkai (Assam); Garo Hills (Meghalaya); Deomali (Arunachal Pradesh); Wayanad (Kerala), Mysore (Karnataka) and Nilgiri (Tamilnadu).
Research & Consultancy Projects
Project Elephant has initiated a 36-months research project (2003-04 to 2006-07) with the help of the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI), Cuttack, for developing high yielding varieties of paddy not relished by elephants; developing elephant-proof storage bins for food grains; and developing elephant repellants. The project is being carried out at the CRRI’s research stations in Orissa and Assam.
Two other 36 months research projects (2003-04 to 2006-07) initiated by project elephant with the help of the Assam Agricultural University are on ‘Disease management in captive elephants’ and ‘Anatomical studies on the Asian elephant’.
Project Elephant has entrusted the WII with a small project (2004-05 to 2005-06) to study the impact of the relocation of the Gujjar on the flora and fauna of Rajaji National Park and has also given a consultancy project (February-July 2005) to the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, to help the West Bengal Forest Department in carrying out a sample-based enumeration of elephants during 2005.
Project Elephant has initiated a programme for registration of domesticated elephants by using microchips. More than 1000 elephants have been microchipped so far in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Andaman & Nicobar and Delhi etc.
Elephant Habitat in India
There are only 17 States in which wild elephants exist. Project Elephant has declared 24 elephant reserves in 12 States to protect elephant populations in the wild and develop their habitat. It was launched in the year 1991-92 as a sequel to a series of efforts to conserve this magnificent species covering primarily the States of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Tamilnadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.