India

india
Photo credit: Annette Bonnier

Projects in India

Background

More than half of the world's wild Asian elephants are found in India, with an estimated population of 29,000 - 30,000.

Elephants have benefitted from great cultural and mythological importance throughout the country's history and in 2010 the Government of India declared them a "National Heritage Animal" to highlight both their ecological and cultural importance. Sadly however, their numbers are declining and their range is far from what it once was.

Elephants once roamed throughout the country except in the most arid of areas, but are now confined to just 3.5% of their former range. The greatest strongholds are in the south, especially in the forested hills of the Western and Eastern Ghats, and in the Himalayan foothills and floodplains of Northeastern India. Further important populations are found in the eastern states of Odisha and Jharkhand, and in the Himalayan foothills further west, straddling the border with Nepal.

With a rapidly growing human population of 1.3 billion and strong economic growth, the demands on India's land and natural resources are more intense than ever before; so much so that even the elephants' heartlands are being eroded away and broken up by human activity. The greatest challenge is to ensure that the vital connections or corridors between larger areas of natural habitat are not severed altogether. If this happens, elephants become trapped in areas too small to sustain them. They then venture onto farmland and into villages to eat and drink, and to get to forest elsewhere, bringing them into conflict with people. On average, 400 people and 100 elephants are killed in India every year as a result of such conflict. A further 40 elephants are accidentally killed on an annual basis by trains or low-hanging power-lines, while 30 may be poached for their ivory.