DNA Profiling of Elephants

Why in News?

About Project-

  • The DNA profiling was initiated in August 2022 for Gaj Soochna Mobile Application for forest officials.
  • DNA profiling is the process where a specific DNA pattern, called a profile, is acquired from a sample of bodily tissue.
  • The DNA profiling will serve as the ‘Adhaar card of captive elephants’. Previously the captive elephants had been chipped electronically, but the method was not a success.
  • With the mobile app, forest officers can identify each elephant and track it and thus its transfer, which often happens in the case of captive elephants, can be recorded.
  • With elephant profiling, more focus can be put on elephant care– with unique information about elephants. Unlike Project Tiger, the Project Elephant looks at the welfare and health of captive elephants as well.

About Project Elephant-

  • Project Elephant was launched in 1992 as a Centrally-Sponsored Scheme with a goal to protect elephants and enhance their habitat and corridors, decrease Human-elephant conflict and ensure their welfare.
  • Around 33 elephant reserves, spanning 80,777 sq km, have been notified.
  • It gives financial and technical support to wildlife management efforts by states for their free-ranging populations of wild Asian Elephants.
  • The project seeks to ensure the long-term survival of the populations of elephants in their natural habitats by protecting the elephants, their habitats and migration corridors.
  • Other objectives of Project Elephant are assisting the research of the ecology and management of elephants, creating awareness of conservation among local people, and providing enhanced veterinary care for captive elephants.

Population of Elephants in India-

  • India is home to 20 percent of the global captive Asian elephant population, but a census of captive elephants is not done consistently.
  • India has the largest and the most stable population of Asian elephants, where over 60 percent of wild Asian elephants are in India.
  • Nilgiri landscape has the largest single population of the endangered Asian elephant anywhere in the world.
  • The population of 29,964 elephants as registered in the last elephant census conducted in 2017 speaks volumes of the passion for wildlife conservation ingrained in Indian culture.
  • According to Elephant Census (2017), Karnataka has the highest number of elephants (6,049), followed by Assam (5,719) and Kerala (3,054).

Key Points Related to Elephants-

  • Asian Elephants- There are three subspecies of Asian elephant which are the Indian, Sumatran and Sri Lankan.
  • Global Population- Approximately 20,000 to 40,000.
  • The Indian subspecies has the widest range and accounts for the majority of the remaining elephants on the continent.
  • IUCN Red List Status- Endangered.
  • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972– Schedule I.
  • CITES- Appendix I.
  • African Elephants- There are two subspecies of African elephants, the Savanna (or bush) elephant and the Forest elephant.
  • Global Population: Approx.- 4,00,000.
  • IUCN Red List Status- Vulnerable.
  • In July 2020, Botswana (Africa) witnessed the death of hundreds of elephants.
  • Concerns-
  • Increased poaching.
  • Habitat loss.
  • Human-elephant conflict.
  • Mistreatment in captivity.
  • Abuse due to elephant tourism.

Elephant Conservation Efforts-

  • Cleaning areas from lantana and eupatorium (invasive species) as they stop the growth of grass for elephants to feed on.
  • Gaj Yatra is a countrywide awareness campaign to celebrate elephants and highlights the necessity of securing elephant corridors.
  • The Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme, introduced in 2003, is an international collaboration that tracks trends in information related to the illegal killing of elephants from across Africa and Asia, to observe effectiveness of field conservation efforts.
  • Even mahouts (people who work with, ride and tend to elephants) and their families play a major part in the welfare of elephants.
  • Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) upheld the 2011 order of the Madras High Court on the Nilgiris elephant corridor, declaring the right of passage of the animals and the closure of resorts in the area.

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