In the past three years, 90 cases of seizure of elephant tusks/ivory have been reported in India along with 29 cases of poaching of elephants. The data were shared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) in the Lok Sabha on August 8. The highest number of cases of elephant tusk seizure was reported in 2021 with 42 cases, and incidents of poaching were the highest in the year 2021 with 14 incidents having been reported throughout the country. Meghalaya alone accounted for seven of the 14 poaching deaths. In the year 2018-19, six elephant deaths due to poaching were reported and nine poaching deaths were reported in 2019-20.
Odisha, which has emerged as one of the hot spots of human-elephant conflict, has accounted for seven elephant deaths due to poaching in the past three years, while Meghalaya accounted for 12 poaching deaths in the past three years. Tamil Nadu has accounted for three deaths of elephants due to poaching. The data were tabled by Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ashwini Kumar Choubey in response to a question by five MPs.
Of the 90 cases of seizure of elephant tusks reported in the past three years, in the year 2020 the number of such cases reported was 21. In 2019, 27 cases of seizure of elephant tusks were reported. In response to the question, the Ministry has informed that the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau has conducted a special pan-India enforcement operation to coordinate action among State and Central enforcement agencies. “Ivory seizures have been affected in the ‘Operation WILDNET-I, II, III and IV’,” the response added.
The biggest challenge
Wildlife experts and conservationists point out that while India is home to 60% of Asian Elephants, the human-elephant conflict continues to be the biggest challenge for wildlife management. Union Minister Bhupender Yadav had Informed the Lok Sabha on July 18 that 1,578 people died of elephant attacks in India between 2019-20 and 2021-22. The maximum number of deaths was reported in Odisha, which recorded 322 deaths, followed by Jharkhand, which reported 291 deaths, and West Bengal where 240 people died.
Speaking at an event to observe World Elephant Day at Periyar in Kerala, Mr .Yadav had stressed on the aspect of human–elephant conflict .“With competition for resources, the human-elephant conflict is increasing and it is unfortunate that on an average 500 people are killed annually by elephants and about 100 elephants are killed in retaliation by people. Managing the human-elephant conflict is a major focus of the Indian government. Reaching out to the families of the victims affected by elephants, Pradhan Mantri Shri Narendra Modi ji’s government has increased the ex gratia from ₹2 lakh to ₹5 lakh,“ a press statement by the PIB quoted the Minister as saying.
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S. P. Pandey, coordinator of WTI-SPOAR Elephant Corridor Monitoring Project Northern West Bengal, said poaching and seizure of ivory were part of the larger problem of the human-elephant conflict. “In north Bengal, there are several incidents of seizure of ivory because of the region sharing borders with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan,” Mr. Pandey said.