Elephants - shrinking herds and habitats around the world.

Dr. Susan Sharma

Using satellite data, it is estimated that 16.4 to 20.4 million hectares of rain forest, which is the elephants' habitat, are being destroyed annually.

Elephants compete with man for land, food and water. Man has developed the land, forcing earth's largest terrestrial mammal onto smaller tracts of Savannah and forest, right to the brink of extinction. Add to this the ivory trade, crop destruction by elephants and this gentle beast suddenly seems to have no friends among humans. India is home to roughly 35% of the species -the Asian elephant. With human populations crossing 100 billion already, elephants cling to a habitat under siege

The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) once spanned Asia from Syria to northern China. Now it inhabits only India, SriLanka, and South East Asia

Elephants occur in several of India's famous national parks, including Corbett and Kaziranga National Parks and Mudumalai Forest Reserve, as well as in many smaller wildlife and forest reserves. However, few of them are large enough to contain a resident population within their boundaries and problems are bound to occur when elephants range outside in search of food and water. Ivory poaching is a particular problem in southern India, where there is a long tradition of carving.

There are an estimated 26,000 wild elephants in India, in fragmented populations, and at least half live entirely outside protected areas. About 12,000 of these are tuskers. Only Asian elephant males carry ivory, unlike their African cousins.

Trade in Asian Ivory is prohibited in India as well as internationally.

(Wild elephant herd moving peacefully in the Corbett National Park, photographed by Karan Singh Bisht)

(To be continued)....

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