The World Elephant Day is observed every year on August 12 to create awareness of urgent plight of African and Asian elephants. It also seeks to share knowledge and positive solutions for better care and management of captive and wild elephants.


  • The first International Elephant Day is held annually and is dedicated to the preservation of the world’s elephants.
  • This day highlights need for better protection for wild elephants, improving enforcement policies to prevent the illegal poaching and trade of ivory, conserving elephant habitats, better treatment for captive elephants etc.
  • African elephants are listed as “vulnerable” and Asian elephants as “endangered” in the IUCN Red List of threatened species. As per the available population estimates, there are about 400,000 African elephants and 40,000 Asian elephants.

Elephant’s place in Indian Culture

  • India is one of the 17 mega diverse countries of the world. It is home to 7-8 percent of the world’s recorded species — from top predators such as the Asiatic lions, Bengal tigers to large herbivores such as the Asian elephant and one-horned rhino.
  • Elephants have enjoyed a special place in India’s culture and tradition. They were used as a means of transport for the royalties and to fight battles, as has been captured by various frescoes.
  • Most important, however, is the status of elephant as a deity in the form of Lord Ganesha. For over 70 per cent of the people in the country, elephants hold a religious importance.

Threats faced

  • According to this, one might presume that India’s elephants enjoy a high degree of protection. While elephants do enjoy the highest status in the Wildlife Protection Act of India, 1972, as Schedule-I species, unfortunately the situation on the ground paints a different picture altogether.
  • It is disappointing to learn that today only about 27,000 wild elephants remain in India, as opposed to a million a decade ago, according to research. There has been a 98 per cent nose-dive in the wild elephant population.
  • India is home to over 50 per cent population of Asian elephants in the world, making it the last strong-hold of the species.
  • However, their condition seems dire, as they face an all-encompassing threat such as shrinkage of their forest ranges, habitat defragmentation, poaching for their body parts and captivity, and anthropogenic pressure.

Loss of habitat

  • Elephants in India face the challenge of increasing space crunch. With an exploding population, more and more invasions are being made into the historical habitats of elephants, which has led to increasing habitat fragmentation.
  • Shrinking forests means lesser availability of food, which incentivizes the movement of elephants out of forested lands to crop lands. Thus, they indulge in crop raiding, which brings them into conflict with people. This often ends with both humans and elephants dying, and a quick change in the discourse of elephants takes place as they become ‘nuisances’ from ‘deities.’
  • Human-elephant conflict (HEC) in bare terms is a problem of co-existence in a space limited world.

Elephant corridors

  • Elephant corridors are narrow strips of land that connect two large habitats of elephants. Elephant corridors are crucial to reduce animal fatalities due to accidents and other reasons. So fragmentation of forests makes it all the more important to preserve migratory corridors.

Why to protect Elephant corridors.

  • The movement of elephants is essential to ensure that their populations are genetically viable. It also helps to regenerate forests on which other species, including tigers, depend.
  • Nearly 40% of elephant reserves are vulnerable, as they are not within protected parks and sanctuaries. Also, the migration corridors have no specific legal protection.
  • Forests that have turned into farms and unchecked tourism are blocking animals’ paths. Animals are thus forced to seek alternative routes resulting in increased elephant-human conflict.
  • Weak regulation of ecotourism is severely impacting important habitats. It particularly affects animals that have large home ranges, like elephants.

Asian elephant alliance

  • It is an umbrella initiative by five NGOs, has come together to secure 96 out of the 101 existing corridors used by elephants across 12 States in India.
  • The joint venture aims to secure the 96 remaining elephant corridors, old and new, in the next ten years.
  • The alliance joined hands to raise the mammoth sum as money was the main constraint in securing the land.
  • NGOs Elephant Family, International Fund for Animal Welfare, IUCN Netherlands and World Land Trust has teamed up with Wildlife Trust of India’s (WTI) in the alliance.

Gaj Mahotsav

  • In India, cultural event Gaj Mahotsav was organised by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on this occasion of this day.
  • It was aimed to sensitise people urgent plight of elephants through different art forms including an exhibition of elephant themed paintings and installations.

Way Forward:

Efforts should be to expand elephant corridors, using the successful models within the country. This includes acquisition of lands using private funds and their transfer to the government. Ending human interference in the pathways of elephants is more a conservation imperative.

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