TO PROTECT ASIAN ELEPHANTS, WE NEED TO CONSERVE HABITAT AND REDUCE CLASHES WITH PEOPLE, SAYS
Why we need to reduce conflict with people
sian elephants are the smaller cousins of those encountered in Africa, and they are found in 13 range states, from India, Nepal and Bhutan to the South-east Asian countries of Thailand and Malaysia and into Indonesia. Many centuries ago they lived much further afield – in northern China, and as far west as Iraq and on Java.
The IUCN estimates the overall population at somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000, but warns this is little more than a “crude guess”. In most areas, but especially South-east Asia, they are declining.
The main threat to Asian elephants is habitat loss as a result of growing human populations. Hungry elephants conflict with villagers by raiding crops and food stores and straying onto roads and railway lines with fatal consequences.
In general, poaching for ivory is not a problem, though there is a new and illegal trade in elephant skin, first documented by the charity Elephant Family in 2014, in Myanmar.
At least half of all Asian elephants are found in India, where the issue of increasing numbers of people is especially acute. Numbers are relatively healthy in Sri Lanka, but there is now a problem of conflict with those resettling areas vacated during the civil war. In Malaysia and Indonesia the biggest threat is the expansion of oil-palm plantations, while Thailand appears to be keeping elephants relatively safe.
The key to protecting Asian elephants is securing habitat and reducing conflict with people. Maintaining wildlife corridors between conservation areas so that elephants can move freely on migratory routes without coming into contact with humans is one of the ways this can be done.
Protecting crops can help (though this is difficult against such intelligent animals), and Elephant Family is also helping develop early warning systems for villagers in southern India using text messaging.
HUNGRY ELEPHANTS CONFLICT WITH VILLAGERS BY RAIDING CROPS AND STRAYING ONTO ROADS.”
An Asian elephant calf suckles while its family feeds on grass in Jim Corbett National Park, India. At least half of all Asian elephants are found in this country.