Why Kerala must protect its elephants: 3-day summit in state involves stakeholders

Organised by the Voice for Asian Elephants Society, the three-day summit calls for action to protect the animal.
Why Kerala must protect its elephants: 3-day summit in state involves stakeholders
Why Kerala must protect its elephants: 3-day summit in state involves stakeholders
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“Elephants, while being mitigators of climate change, are as impacted by the detrimental effects of it, because of habitat loss caused by encroachment and human activities. As a result, they don’t have a home or food, and it is a no-win situation if human beings don’t learn how to coexist with the animal,” says Sangita Iyer, founder of Voice for Asian Elephants Society (VFAES).

Based in Canada, Sangita hails from Kerala and has been working to protect wild elephants for years. 

Now, the VFAES has organised The Gentle Giant Summit, a three-day workshop with various stakeholders with the aim of promoting the protection of wild elephants.

“Elephants consume about 150 kilos of different varieties of vegetation every single day, and they wander around the forest for 16 to 18 hours a day. While doing so, they drop their dung along with the seeds of the plants that they've consumed. The seeds grow into trees and as we know, the trees give us oxygen, " Sangita explains.

Elephants trample on soft-wooded trees which block the penetration of sunlight and rain into the earth. As a consequence, hard-wooded trees get more sunlight and can grow better, she adds.

At the sidelines of the workshop that began in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday evening, Sangita says, "If you ask me why solely elephants, I would say that by protecting elephants, we're protecting other animals too. They create pathways for other animals in the forest to have access to food and water." 

According to Sangita, there were more than 3,000 wild elephants in Kerala at any given time, as per the elephant census conducted by the Environment Ministry in 2017. 

"The data was updated six months ago, and now there are more than 5,000 elephants at any given time. Kerala needs elephants more than any other state because of the devastation caused by the floods in 2018. The disaster was caused by climate change. This year, in November, the torrential rains that we received has never happened before. It’s not one individual, it’s a collective task, and that is how we conducted the workshop, with everyone’s inputs. The summit is just the beginning,” she believes.

The core idea of the summit is to make a collective effort towards the protection of the animal, with suggestions from all concerned, including the representatives of the Forest Department and that of the Kerala State Electricity Board. 

Inspector General of Police P Viajayan said while speaking at the summit, that a separate wing should be set up in the police for the protection of the environment. Elephants unknowingly consume polluted water that contains even plastic dumped by human beings. 

"During the cleaning mission prior to the pilgrim season at Sabarimala, more than 600 tonnes of plastic waste were treated. What if the plastic was consumed by the animals?” he asked.

 Chief Conservator of Forests PN Unnikrishnan said that it’s the encroachment by human beings that's making the wild elephants come out of the forest from their habitat. 

“The greed of the human beings has caused the devastation of the habitat of the animals," he said.

Binoy Viswam at the summit 

 State Police Chief Loknath Behera, who spoke on the first day, said that the Wildlife Protection Act should be amended to give more power to the police because as per the existing law, only the Forest Department can register cases on atrocities against animals. Former Minister for Forest Binoy Viswam, who inaugurated the summit, said that humans provoke animals by exhibiting them in festivals. 

“No religious texts says that elephants should be exhibited in festivals, and it's being done only because of the greed for money,” he claimed.

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