Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav on Friday said managing human-elephant conflict is a major focus of the government of India, which believes that no conservation effort is successful without the participation and cooperation of local communities.

Terming the increasing human-elephant conflicts as a sensitive issue, he said on an average 500 people are killed annually by jumbos and about 100 elephants are killed in retaliation by people in the country. The minister made the remarks at the World Elephant Day celebrations at the Periyar National Park here.

"Managing human-elephant conflict is a major focus of the Indian government. Reaching out to the families of the victims affected by elephants, the Centre has increased the ex-gratia from ₹2 lakh to ₹5 lakh. To find a long-term solution, we are revisiting the elephant corridors of the country and have finished more than 50 per cent of the task involving key stakeholders in this endeavour," he said.

Noting that elephant conservation in the country has done remarkably well despite many challenges, he said India continues to be a leader in ensuring protection to the largest mammal under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India has the largest and the most stable population of Asian elephants, the minister said, adding that the country houses more than 60 per cent of wild Asian elephants. The population of elephants was 29,964 as recorded in the last elephant census conducted in 2017, he said.

Elephant Reserves in India

Pointing out that India has 31 Elephant Reserves, he said in the last three years, Dandeli Elephant Reserve has been notified by the state of Karnataka, Singphan Elephant Reserve by Nagaland and Lemru Elephant Reserve in Chhattisgarh. This has brought the total area under Elephant Reserves in India to about 76,508 sq km across 14 states of the country.

"I am very happy to share with you all that later today India is going to witness the establishment of one more Elephant Reserve, the Agasthyamalai in Tamil Nadu, adding another 1,197 sq km of Protected Area dedicated for protection and conservation of elephants in India," he said.

Describing the Prime Minister as a staunch environmentalist and nature lover, Yadav said he has made two aspects central to the country's wildlife conservation strategy.

"First, wildlife protections and fighting against climate change can go hand in hand with development — without either compromising on the other. Second, conservation efforts for our wildlife and biodiversity should be community-driven with all the assistance needed from the state being made available," he said.

And therefore the Indian government’s model of wildlife protection has the welfare of communities at its heart, he said. He also lauded the model of Periyar National Park saying Periyar illustrates the conservation ethos of the country by effectively managing biodiversity conservation and people welfare.

Union Minister of State Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Kerala Forest Minister AK Saseedran and Director General of Forest and Special Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change C P Goyal were among those who attended the programme.

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