GUWAHATI, Nov 6 - A proposed joint collaboration for management of trans-border elephant migration between India and Bangladesh awaits the nod of the Union Home Ministry. Conservationists believe that once it materialises, the first-of-its-kind endeavour will go a long way in easing trans-border migration of pachyderms, besides checking wildlife crimes and reducing man-elephant conflict.
Talking to The Assam Tribune on the sidelines of a conclave on Asian elephants �Elephant talk-2015�, RK Srivastava, Inspector General-Project Elephant under the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, said that the absence of a joint mechanism between India and Bangladesh for monitoring and managing hindered wildlife movement, prompting Project Elephant to come up with a proposal for joint management.
�We have made 20-odd recommendations on the matter and a proposal has been submitted to the Home Ministry in view of the security concerns. We are hopeful of getting the green signal from the Home Ministry as well as the External Affairs Ministry,� Srivastava said.
Srivastava added that the issues concerning a joint conservation protocol had already been discussed with Bangladesh officials and other stakeholders including NGOs. �Trans-border conservation is suffering for want of cooperation and coordination between Bangladesh and India. Poaching, habitat degradation and man-elephant conflict can be eased with a joint mechanism,� he said.
In May this year, a tusker was brutally shot dead by Bangladesh Border Guards (BBG) after the animal entered Bangladesh territory from Murshidabad district in West Bengal. It was shot as many as 34 times, triggering protest by conservation activists.
The Project Elephant IG said that most of the elephant migration of elephants from India to Bangladesh takes place from the Garo Hills of Meghalaya to Sherpur district of West Bengal.
�Bangladesh has a small population of 200-odd elephants which is not viable for long-term elephant conservation. Migration of elephants from India will help boost its gene pool,� he said.
Srivastava who addressed the conclave organised by Balipara Foundation and attended by a number of conservationists, wildlife scientists and forest officials from several countries, acknowledged that loss and fragmentation of elephant habitat across the country posed a serious threat to the pachyderms. �Matters stand worsened by the lack of legal sanctity to the elephant corridors that have borne the brunt of expanding settlements, and commercial and industrial activities,� he added.
Srivastava said that elephant conservation had three major problem areas � habitat loss and fragmentation, man-elephant conflict, and issues regarding domestic elephants.
On major threats to elephants in eastern and north-eastern India, Srivastava cited elephant deaths by electrocution and train-hits as areas of concern. Abuse of domestic elephants (which are mostly brought from the North-east) in temples, churches and mosques in Kerela was another serious issue, he added.
Others who deliberated on wide-ranging elephant issues included Prachi Mehta of WRCS, Varun Goswami of Wildlife Conservation Society, Lisa Mills of State University of North Carolina, Vivek Menon of Wildlife Trust of India, Raman Sukumar of Indian Institute of Science, Abhijit Rabha, Addl PCCF, Assam, among others.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi also made a special address.