24 May 2011
Haathi Mere Saathi campaign launched
On 24 May 2011, the government of India launched the Haathi Mere Saathi campaign at the Elephant-8 Ministerial Meeting at New Delhi. The campaign, aimed at the conservation and welfare of elephants is conducted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in association with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI).
- The Elephant-8 or E-8 represents the eight countries that attended the meeting namely, India, Thailand, Kenya, Botswana, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Republic of Congo and Tanzania.
- All these countries have one or more varieties of elephant species in their native habitats.
- The Haathi Mere Saathi campaign is an all-India campaign and is funded by the central government.
- The elephant faces the threat of attrition, if not of extinction. Elephant habitats are increasingly threatened by human encroachment.
- The campaign also aims at improving the human-elephant relationship from one of mere friendship to companionship.
- The campaign is an extension of the Project Elephant which India had launched in 1992. This project offers monetary support to the elephant-state range states in the country to operate and sustain protected areas, make secure the habitats and elephant corridors and also handle the problem of human-animal conflicts.
- An elephant corridor is a stretch of land, sometimes forested, which connects large habitats with the elephant population and also forms a channel for the movement of elephants to and from the habitats. This movement is important as it increases the survival and birth rates of the animal. In India, there are 88 such corridors.
- Threats to elephant corridors are developmental work like construction, roadways, railways, coal and iron ore mining, etc. Poaching for the highly-prized elephant ivory is also a big threat to the species. The tuskers, especially, are at risk in this regard.
- During the E-8 meeting, the then environment minister Jairam Ramesh unveiled the campaign’s mascot, Gaju.
- The 8 countries had about two-thirds of the world’s elephant population. They represented three species of the elephant: the Asian elephant, the African Bush elephant and the African Forest elephant. More than half of the world’s Asian elephants are in India.
- The deliberations were divided into three topics at the meeting:
- Science and conservation
- Conservation and management
- Ethical and cultural perspectives of conservation
- The eight nations involved resolved to take necessary action in the conservation of this beautiful animal and ensure its long-term survival.
- The elephant was declared India’s ‘National Heritage Animal’ in October 2010. It is the official state animal of three of India’s states: Kerala, Karnataka and Jharkhand. Karnataka has the highest population of elephants in India.
- It was also decided in the meeting that India would host another meeting, the Elephant – 50:50 Forum in 2013 where 50 countries that had elephant populations would participate. This meeting, however, never materialised.
- As of 2017, there are about 27000 elephants in India. But, we should not be complacent as at the turn of the previous century, there were about 40,000 tigers in India. Today, the number is less than 2500 and continuous efforts are underway to prevent the tiger from extinction. A similar fate should not befall the mighty elephant.
Also on this day
1950: Lord Wavell, Viceroy of India from 1943 to 1947 died in London.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.