World Elephant Day 2022 was celebrated on Friday at Periyar, Kerala, where the Malasar community belonging to the Anamalai of Tamil Nadu and mahouts of Kerala and Assam were awarded the first ever Gaj Gaurav Award by the Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav.
For the first time in an initiative taken by the minister, Gaj Gaurav Award was conferred for commendable efforts of local communities, frontline staff and mahouts working at grass root level to conserve elephants in wild and captivity, the ministry stated in a release.
Speaking at the occasion, Yadav said, "Our association with elephants is ancient, valued and revered... elephants are also critical to the sustenance of our wildlife and biodiversity and India places a very high premium on the conservation of the jumbos".
India will witness the establishment of one more Elephant Reserve, Agasthiyamalai in Tamil Nadu, the minister said.
"I am very happy to share with you all that later today, India will witness the establishment of one more Elephant Reserve, Agasthiyamalai in Tamil Nadu, adding another 1,197 sq km of protected area dedicated to conservation of elephants," Yadav tweeted.
India has 31 Elephant Reserves. In the last three years, Dandeli Elephant Reserve has been notified by the state of Karnataka, Singphan Elephant Reserve by Nagaland and Lemru Elephant Reserve in Chhattisgarh. This has brought the total area under Elephant Reserves in India to about 76,508 sqkm across 14 states of the country, the minister said.
Yadav said in his speech that India has the largest and the most stable population of Asian elephants. In fact, more than 60% of wild Asian elephants are in India. The population of 29,964 elephants as recorded in the last elephant census conducted in 2017 speaks volumes of the passion for wildlife conservation ingrained in Indian culture.
“We have some of the best laws to protect elephants and their habitats. We have the most amazing people who love and worship elephants,” Yadav said.
The Union minister also released “Elephant Reserves of India: An Atlas”, “Elephant Reserves of India: Land Use Land Cover Classification”, “Caring for elephants: Managing health and welfare in captivity” and the Special edition of “Trumpet”.
Also, commemorating 30 years of Project Elephant, a poster on elephant conservation in India was released by all dignitaries, according to the Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ministry.
Yadav also stated that “Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji a staunch environmentalist and nature lover has made two aspects central to our wildlife conservation strategy. First, wildlife protections and fight against climate change can go hand in hand with development – without either compromising on the other. Second, conservation efforts for our wildlife and biodiversity should be community-driven and all the assistance needed from the state being made available".
The celebration was also attended by Ashwini Kumar Choubey, MoS, EFCC and AK Saseendran, Minister of Forests and Wildlife, Kerala among others.
Prizes were also given to school students for several competitions held on the theme “Living with elephants”.