British lawmakers rally for the cause of elephants in India

85 people, including actors, write to Prime Minister Modi highlighting the alarming rise in elephant deaths in India due to electrocution, poaching, and habitat loss. In the past 10 years, almost 1,200 elephants have been killed across India, they say.

Updated - July 08, 2023 09:55 pm IST

Published - July 08, 2023 07:39 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

British lawmaker Henry Smith, actor Rula Lenska, and renowned wildlife photographer Gary Hodges hold a placard at the U.K. Parliament in support of conservation of Indian elephants. Photo: Special Arrangement

British lawmaker Henry Smith, actor Rula Lenska, and renowned wildlife photographer Gary Hodges hold a placard at the U.K. Parliament in support of conservation of Indian elephants. Photo: Special Arrangement

Stung by the high number of elephant deaths in India, 85 eminent people from the U.K., including members of the House of Lords and House of Commons and celebrated actors, have fired off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi imploring urgent steps to check the rising instances of human-elephant conflict in India and prevent the extinction of the gravely endangered Asian elephants.

The letter signed by British lawmakers along with celebrities including William Shatner, a Hollywood legend and the celebrated Captain Kirk of the Star Trek series, and Rula Lenska and Peter Eagan, pointed out that in the past 10 years, almost 1,200 elephants have been killed across India. In the past three years, 245 elephants have been killed in Odisha alone, where mining is rampant.

The British lawmakers rallied for the cause of elephants in India after Canada-based biologist and conservationist Sangita Iyer, along with Conservative MP Henry Smith, recently addressed the U.K. Parliament, following the alarming rise in elephant deaths in India caused by electrocution, poaching, and habitat loss.

Just 40,000 remain

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are only 40,000 Asian elephants on the planet and India is home to around 27,000 of them. The surging infrastructure development in the country, meant to support its burgeoning population, is squeezing out the gentle beasts from their natural habitations in search of food and water, intensifying the human-elephant conflict, the letter said.

Biologist and conservationist Sangita Iyer with British lawmaker Henry Smith  at the U.K. Parliament.

Biologist and conservationist Sangita Iyer with British lawmaker Henry Smith at the U.K. Parliament. | Photo Credit: Guy Corbishley

Stressing the need to protect the endangered herbivores that are vital for the global ecosystem, the signatories requested the Union government to do everything possible to protect the animals, and impose stringent penalties that would deter their senseless killings. Along with Mr. Modi, the letter was also addressed to Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav.

Against climate change

Emphasising the role played by elephants in mitigating climate change — which has been detailed in a study by the International Monetary Fund — Ms. Iyer said, “Countries may have borders, but climate change does not. So, what happens to elephants in India will have a cascading effect around the planet. It is the need of the hour for world leaders to come together to implore Indian authorities to act urgently,” she added.

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