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Tamil Nadu celebrating World Elephant Day in style with two-day conclave in Coimbatore

Tamil Nadu is celebrating the World Elephant Day, August 12, by holding a two-day conclave where the public-private partnership for conservation of elephants was emphasised by passing of the baton

To make the celebration of World Elephant Day (August 12) meaningful, the Tamil Nadu Government is holding a two-day conclave titled “Securing a better future for Gentle Giants” at Coimbatore’s Globus Centre. The event which was inaugurated on Friday is a commendable endeavour to honour and safeguard the State’s elephant population.

As part of this conclave, the Wildlife Trust of India in collaboration with the State Government and Whitley Fund for Nature has brought its flagship campaign Gaj Utsav “Yaanai Thiruvizha” to Tamil Nadu.

The event which will zoom on the threats to Asian elephants, including illegal poaching, habitat fragmentation, urbanisation, and train accidents among other issues was inaugurated by Dr. M. Mathiventhan, Minister of Forests and Supriya Sahu, Additional Chief Secretary, Environment, Climate Change and Forest.

Spelling out the intent of the Government at the event, Mathiventhan observed: “This unique conclave prioritises the protection of elephants. Over the last 3 decades, elephant habitats and security have been impacted. Wildlife Trust of India’s work on identifying corridors in Tamil Nadu has led to a dedicated committee for their safeguarding. The Tamil Nadu government is firmly committed to wildlife conservation and is executing many iconic projects to preserve our wildlife.”

Incidentally, TN has the third highest population of wild elephants in the south and boasts of more than 2,900 individuals. These span five elephant reserves in the State which has 16 identified elephant corridors.

World Elephant Day 2023 TN Conclave Corridor
Addressing the conclave, Supriya Sahu, Additional Chief Secretary, Environment, Climate Change and Forest, Tamil Nadu, said that establishment and protection of elephant corridors are imperative, and that the State Government is dedicated to ensuring their security

Talking in the same vein Sahu said: “Without elephants, forests would cease to exist; thus, safeguarding their habitats becomes of utmost importance. The establishment and protection of elephant corridors are imperative, and we are dedicated to ensuring their security. The Tamil Nadu Govt. is using state-of-the-art technology to effectively mitigate human-wildlife conflict and we uphold a zero-tolerance policy towards wildlife crimes and offences.”

Welcoming Tamil Nadu Government’s campaign to celebrate elephants and its Right of passage, Vivek Menon, Founder and Executive Director of WTI said the NGO is “partnering with the Tamil Nadu Forest Department to pass on the message of elephant corridors and the need for habitat linkages to the common man.”

Speaking to India Narrative, WTI spokesperson informed: “The technical sessions on the first day included challenges and initiatives for the conservation of the Asian elephant in south India by Vivek Menon, WTI’s Executive Director; landscape management of elephants in India and future challenges by Raman Sukumar, honorary professor and national science chair, Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru; climate change and future of elephants by Deepak Bilgi by director of Department of Environment and Climate Change, Government of Tamil Nadu.”

World Elephant Day 2023 TN Conclave2
Celebrating elephant, the national heritage animal on the occasion of World Elephant Day

To make participants aware of the work done in the area of conservation, handbooks on camp elephant management, boundary night patrolling team prepared by the Anamalai Tiger Reserve and a standard operating procedure for orphaned elephant calf management were also released at the event, the spokesperson told India Narrative.

Interestingly the launch was marked by a symbolic baton handover from Dr.Mathiventhan and Sahu to N. Jayaraj, District Forest Officer of Coimbatore Forest Division, K. Kalidasan, Founder, OSAI Environmental Organisation and Dr. Sandeep Tiwari, Director, WTI. “This signifies a unique public-private partnership to take forward the vision of bringing the ‘gajah to the prajah’ through the elephant districts of the State, culminating at Chennai,” as per the WTI Press release.

World Elephant Day 2023 TN Conclave4
One of the primary objectives of the conclave and Gaj Utsav is to spread awareness about the elephants

The day two of conclave will see sessions deliberating on securing elephant corridors and migratory routes for conflict mitigation; panel discussion on translocation of wild elephants; talks on human-elephant coexistence -a case study from Valparai; and captive elephant welfare among other subjects.

Highlighting what Yaanai Thiruvizha stands for, WTI spokesperson informed India Narrative: “Its celebratory aspects will foster a sense of admiration and appreciation for these glorious beings while showcasing the rich history, literature, and mythology surrounding the Asian elephant. By highlighting their positive attributes, we foster a deeper connection between people and elephants, emphasizing the need to protect their existence.”

Gaj Utsav which was started in 2018 has made significant impact across elephant range States and over the last five years, the campaign has successfully engaged with 75,000 people across India.

Also read: Tamil Nadu sets up second elephant camp with cash injection of Rs.8 crore